I would like to thank Laurie McLendon for all her encouragement and support during the writing of this article.
Tocqueville, Jansenism, and the Psychology of Freedom
Article first published online: 21 JUN 2006
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 50, Issue 3, pages 664–675, July 2006
How to Cite
McLendon, M. L. (2006), Tocqueville, Jansenism, and the Psychology of Freedom. American Journal of Political Science, 50: 664–675. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00208.x
- Issue published online: 21 JUN 2006
- Article first published online: 21 JUN 2006
In American political discourse, freedom is often spoken of in terms of its inherent rationality or divine origins and is conceptualized as nothing more than a set of concrete institutions coupled with individual rights. By way ofTocqueville'sDemocracy in America,I will attempt to broaden our political vocabulary by constructing a psychology of freedom. According to Tocqueville, the American consciousness is largely a product of two conflicting tendencies: Cartesian rationality and Pascalian existential angst. Out of the tensions created by the interplay of these two elements Tocqueville demonstrates that the motivations to sustain freedom, as well as the institutions and practices crucial for the maintenance of it, result from a complex psychological mixture of self-interest, vanity, and a desire for solitude.