By Raf Geenens
This quantity units up a discussion among the 'historical' and the 'contemporary' Tocqueville. How does a contextualization of Tocqueville, or a spotlight on his embeddedness in nineteenth-century political tradition, upload to our knowing of his political idea? How has using his writings in political debate motivated the reception of his work?
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Extra resources for Reading Tocqueville: From Oracle to Actor
But he distanced himself from what he portrayed as Corcelle’s extreme idealism. He made it clear that France’s posture towards the Arabs should not be one of cooperation and conciliation. ‘I want no more than [my honourable friend] does to expel the natives. Above all, I do not want to exterminate them, as has been, if not proposed, then at least suggested or insinuated several times … . ’31 Liberalism, Democracy and Empire 21 In both his letter to Lamoricière and his parliamentary speech, as in so many of his writings on Algeria, Tocqueville seized the ground of realism by declaring the need to accept a certain degree of violence.
See Papiers Alexis de Tocqueville, Archives de la Manche, AT 2688. i; Selected Letters, p. 363. 41 27 November 1857. Oeuvres complètes, ed. Gustave de Beaumont (Paris: Michel Lévy-frères, 1864–6), VI, p. 422 (hereinafter cited as OCB), Selected Letters, p. 359. Todorov quotes the second sentence of this passage, but in ignoring the rest of the letter, he overstates Tocqueville’s belief that European imperialism was a civilizing project, even while he concedes that in the cases that Tocqueville knew well, he did not believe that civilization had occurred in practice.
Tocqueville’s ideas about how to create a ‘social revolution’ that would help to secure 20 Reading Tocqueville French rule in Algeria are at once theoretically sophisticated and coldly cynical. He argued, for instance, that the French should take advantage of the fact that individual Arab property owners had long been vulnerable to the confiscation of their land. ’ The French could thus ‘use the ambition of some to counter the hostility of others’. Having committed the great violence of conquest, Tocqueville added, the French must not recoil from all the smaller acts of violence (violences de détail) that were necessary to consolidate their power.