Though he quickly dropped an early plan to settle in Algeria as a colonist, Tocqueville continued to study the country and its culture: Ergo, the French had to wage total war, for as a matter of culture, Arabs were unlikely to ever surren- der voluntarily. Given what he felt was the extraordinary absence of public virtue among the French, Tocqueville turned to military and imperial exploits both as a potential source of inspiration for the public and with the hope that glory might partly substitue for virtue. The Threat to https: Tocqueville was a child of his time, which saw most French writers and intellectuals applaud the invasion of Algeria. In the late eighteenth century, a broad consensus emerged for the first time among political thinkers that the European project of unlimited imperial expansion was unwise and immoral.

Princeton University Press, Gallimard, volume 3,i edited by J. James provides what is still one of the best accounts of the ambivalence of the French Revolutionaries regarding political independence and self-determination for the non-white residents, including mixed-race freemen, of the French colonies. According to the modern, the democratic, and, we venture to say the only just notion of liberty, every man, being presumed to have received from nature the intelligence necessary for his own general guidance, is inherently entitled to be uncontrolled by his fellows in all that only concerns himself, and to regulate at his own will his own destiny. Although in some senses Constant eloquently encapsulated the Enlightenment case against empire, he brought distinctly nineteenth-century concerns to his work as well. Princeton University Press, , 7.

Liberalism and empire: Tocqueville on Algeria

Pichon et Didier, Men had become too independent, too disrespectful, too skeptical to believe sincerely in the rights of absolute power. It also endangered the psy- chological bases of social cohesion itself. Therefore, let us not slander our century and ourselves too much; the men are small, but the events are great.


With this paper, I hope to have made two central points clear. Tocqueville never explicitly claimed that this transition required the exploitation of non-European societies, that nation-building legitimated suspending principles of human equality and self-determination, or that French glory justified any aggression the nation could muster.

Essay on Algeria

Elster, Political psychology Cambridge: When Tocqueville began to examine the question of European empires in Asia and north Africa in the mids, anti-imperial arguments still existed, but it was left to fairly minor leftist politicians to expound them. In the eyes of the world, such an abandon- ment would be the clear indication of our decline. Mill essah Tocqueville, were avid imperialists.

This year it is exactly years ago that France’s ‘champion of freedom’ travelled to Algeria and published a plea for its conquest. And why does it belong to you?

Tocqueville Selected Letters Princeton University Press,56—61; Robert A. His anti-imperialism, as we have seen, followed quite straightforwardly from these views: The fact was that the early years of Algerian colonization offered no clear path connecting national glory to total war.

Essays in Honour of Isaiah Berlin, ed. Having admired the deep engagement in local politics of the American settlers, he clearly hoped that a similar dynamic could be created in Algeria and even that it would stimulate a more engaged politics in France.

essay on algeria tocqueville

He saw the problem of centralization, rather, as at root a technical one: Europe had thrown off apgeria chains of religion and adopted reason as its ultimate guide.

The diffusion of enlightenment and the division of property left each of us independent and isolated from all the others.

Rather, we must turn tocaueville the pressures and anxieties of certain historical moments to understand how thinkers whom we understand to exist within a broad but identifiable tradition could have disagreed so thoroughly about one of the most important political developments of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: He believed, however, that his contemporaries were in perhaps even greater danger than the Frenchmen of the previous generation.


Aalgeria, Tocqueville believed, could only damage the republic.

Essay on Algeria | The Core Curriculum

Harvard University Press,21—, — But it also left citizens with no bonds with which to cohere other than the state. They fought defensive wars as citizens called to protect the most public interest of all. All the writings discussed in this paragraph will appear in my forthcoming translation. The same cause which made the monarchy fall so easily, made everything possible after its fall.

Legal limits on state power would be of little use if the French people were incapable of concerted political action to exercise and protect their liberties. Byit seemed to many that empires of vast territory and indigenous populations were a thing of the past; key revolutionary ideologues such as Sieyes and Robespierre left little indication of their views on the morality or prudence of non-European empire.

Liberty in a Levelled Society? As he wrote to Henry Reeve. From then on, only the interest of public affairs could momentarily unite our esprits and bring together our wills.

essay on algeria tocqueville

If democratic self-government could not be resurrected from within, Tocqueville was willing to seek an external solution, one that required using weaker peoples as instruments.