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Tocq Philosophy - Are you a Tocquevillian?

Working Toward a Tocquevillian America


The core dilemma facing this nation as we move into the 21st century is the insidious weaving of political correctness into the fabric of American culture. There are two competing worldviews - opposing forces locked in battle, engaged in an epic struggle for the dominance of the American mind. The Culture War is indeed a war, make no mistake, and the winner of that war will determine the ultimate course of American cultural evolution.

Origins Of The Culture War

Steven Yates, PhD. and author of "Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong with Affirmative Action" recently wrote an article on entitled "Understanding the Culture War: Gramscians, Tocquevillians and Others" in which he in turn reviews an article by John Fonte of the Hudson Institute, published in Heritage Foundation's "Policy Review" entitled "Why There Is a Culture War. Together the two provide clear insight into the origins of the disease that is Political Correctness and nicely articulate the basis of the philosophy behind this website, The Tocquevillan Magazine.

On one side of the Culture War are the "Gramscians", and on the other, the "Tocquevillians". The names are taken from the intellectuals whom Fonte credits with authoring the respective warring ideologies: The Italian neo-Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, French political philosopher and author of Prison Notebooks, and Alexis de Tocqueville, author of the esteemed and influential Democracy in America.

The Oppressors and The Oppressed

The liberal world-view so prevalent in America today can be traced directly back to Gramsci, whether or not modern liberals know the name - and most of them probably don't. Gramsci agreed with Karl Marx that every society could be divided into two classes, the "bourgeois" and "proletariat" - oppressor and oppressed, respectively.

But Gramsci took it a step further and divided the oppressed into subordinate groups instead of the single homogeneous proletariat of Marx. Gramsci identified these oppressed groups as "women, racial minorities and many criminals."

Gramsci distinguishes two ways that the dominant group exercises control over the oppressed group, whereas Marx had written only of one:

1. Direct control through force and coercion - political domination couched in terms of service to the economic interests of the bourgeoisie.

2. What Gramsci calls Hegemony, which is the tacit use of a values system that supports and reinforces the interests of the proletariat.

The oppressed groups don't even know that they are oppressed, according to Gramsci, because they have absorbed the values system, or "false consciousness", that represses them.

"False Consciousness"

Yates points us to one example of this - the radical feminists who speak of romantic candlelight dinners as a form of prostitution. If a radical feminist claims that dinner is prostitution, or that all sex is rape - even married, consensual sex, and if "ordinary" women object, then the objection arises only as a result of this "false consciousness" asserting itself.

The Marxist Revolution - Infiltrating the Institutions

Gramsci argued that before there could be any Marxist "revolution", it would be necessary to build up a "counter-hegemony". In other words, a system of values that undermined the oppressor group and that favored the oppressed groups would have to be instilled into the cultural consciousness. The entry points for the insinuation of this altered values system into the dominant culture would be those institutions that we take for granted - schools, churches, businesses, media, as well as art, literature and philosophy. Only by infiltrating these traditional sources of consciousness can the Gramscian revolution overthrow the shackles of the oppressors and usher in a true Marxist revolution.

Brainwashing the working class

In the opening of his new book, Hooking Up, Tom Wolfe says "by the year 2000, the term "working class" had fallen into disuse in the United States, and "proletariat" was so obsolete it was known only to a few bitter old academics with wire hair sprouting out of their ears."

But while terminology has changed, the underlying socialist philosophy remains as strong as ever. Wolfe points out that the "proletariat" in the United States, people who had undoubtedly never heard the name Saint-Simon, were nevertheless "fulfilling Saint-Simon's and the other nineteenth century utopian socialists' dreams of a day when the ordinary workingman would have the political and personal freedom, the free time and the wherewithal to express himself in any way he saw fit and to unleash his full potential."

Ironically, the working man thus described does not boast of having attained this level of freedom, indeed is often ashamed of it, because he has "been numbed by the..."intellectuals", who had spent the preceding eighty years being indignant over what a "puritanical," "repressive," "bigoted," "capitalistic," and "fascist" nation America was beneath its democratic façade". They have, in other words, absorbed the "false consciousness" of Gramsci.

"Organic" intellectuals

These intellectuals played an important role in the Gramscian vision of the transformation of society. Specifically, Gramsci called these "organic" intellectuals, as opposed to "traditional" intellectuals. Organic intellectuals were those who belonged to the repressed groups and were attempting to undermine the dominant culture, with the help of any "traditional" intellectuals who could be persuaded to defect. In fact, writes Yates, "changing the minds of "traditional" intellectuals was particularly valuable, as they were already well positioned within the dominant educational institutions." Thus began the "long march through the institutions" - a phrase we owe to Gramsci.


Gramsci's notion of "organic" intellectuals is evidenced in today's demands within the institutions for more and more "diversity". But this is a diversity of faces, not ideas. "Traditional" intellectuals wield power, especially in education. But as Yates points out, the Gramscian gatekeepers control who is admitted into the ivy-choked halls of academia, and today's in educational institutions, dominated by feminists of "all stripes and colors (and sexual preferences and fetishes)" an outspoken conservative might save himself the trouble of applying.


The reigning doctrine in our Gramscian educational institutions is deconstruction. The high priests of deconstruction were two Frenchmen, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Of these Tom Wolfe writes, "They began with a hyperdilation of a pronouncement of Nietzsche's to the effect that there can be no absolute truth, merely many "truths," which are the tools of various groups, classes, or forces."


Gramsci described himself as an "absolute historicist," his views deriving from the philosopher Hegel. All systems of value, all moral codes, are nothing more than the products of the period in history and the culture that spawned them. There is no such thing as absolute truth or objective morality. There are only value systems that represent the interests of the bourgeois or the proletariat, and the mission of the organic intellectuals is to undermine the dominant value system. The chief means of accomplishing this is to capture control of language, especially the language of morality.

The Language of Morality

Wolfe writes of the doctrine that "language is the most insidious tool of all." The duty of the "organic" intellectual is to "deconstruct the language, expose its hidden agendas, and help save the victims of the American "Establishment": women, the poor, nonwhites, homosexuals, and hardwood trees."

Capturing control over language, especially the language of morality, opens the doors to psychological control of the masses. "Most people will reject ideas and institutions if they become convinced of their basic immorality; most people, too, lack the kind of training that will equip them to untangle the thicket of logical fallacies that might be involved," writes Yates.

Having assumed control of the language of morality, especially in institutions such as the media and academia, the way is now clear for the Gramscian transformation of society.

Political Correctness

The deconstruction movement in academia is a systematic effort to destroy the values of "dominant groups": straight white Christian males of non-Marxist European descent. The values that are under attack are truth as the goal of inquiry, transcendent morality as the guide to human conduct, freedom and independence as political ideals, hiring and contracting based on merit. In a Gramscian world, all of these are myths of the dominant consciousness.

Yates points out that political correctness is the primary weapon in the war against those values. Academic schools of radical feminism, "critical race theory," gay and lesbian "queer theory," the preoccupation with "diversity" as an end in itself and all other forms of PC are direct descendents of Gramsci - they are the chief arm of enforcement of the Gramscian transformation of American society.

The Opposition

But there is a force arrayed against the powerful and moneyed drive toward a Gramscian world. Fonte describes this opposition force as the "Tocquevillian Counterattack."

The core philosophy here is that of American Excptionalism - the idea that there are normative values embodied in America that, far from being mere historical products, are to be embraced for what they are: the values that make America the special place that it is. Fonte describes a "trinity of American exceptionalism" that define the unique development of America:

1. Dynamism. This is the support for entrepreneurship and economic progress, including the changes that economic progress yields, and support for equality of opportunity for all individuals to participate in this process.

2. Religiosity. This is the idea that freedom is only possible to a moral citizenry - that moral values have their origins with God, that character development is a necessary component of education, and that social problems should be dealt with at the local level through the voluntary efforts of men and women of good will and character.

3. Patriotism. Love of country. Support for the Constitution. Limited self-government. The rule of law.

Other Opposition Forces

There is a third set of views, also opposed to the creation of a Gramscian world, but that are not Tocquevillians in Fonte's view because they do not accept all of the three components above. These views might accept two of those three components or emphasize one over the others.

For example, the libertarian author of The Future and its Enemies, Virginia Postrel, puts most weight on the first, distinguishing "dynamists" from "stasists."

Most Libertarians reject the second, adhering to philosopher Ayn Rand's view that morality originates from the necessities of sustaining human existence, or the exercise of reason in responding to a knowable, objective world, rather than from God.

Then there are the members of today's pro-South movement who mistrust the first and who believe that the third can only be realized through secession.

Fonte describes adherents to this third set of views as "libertarians, paleoconservatives, secular patriots, Catholic social democrats, and disaffected religious-right intellectuals."

"Only The Tocquevillians"

But as an opposition force, Fonte doubts that those listed above "will mount an effective resistance to the continuing Gramscian assault. Only the Tocquevillians appear to have the strength - in terms of intellectual firepower, infrastructure, funding, media attention and a comprehensive philosophy that taps into core American principles - to challenge the Gramscians with any chance of success."

Thus far this group, for whatever reason, has not even come close to stemming the Gramscian tide. Despite having its own foundations, and despite considerable intellectual firepower (Fonte names his favorite Tocquevillians: William Bennett, Michael Novak, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Marvin Olasky, Norman Podhorets and scholars such as Williams Galston, Wilfred McClay, Harvey Mansfield and Walter McDougall, as well as writers such as Irving Kristol and Charles Kesler) the Tocquevillians have yet to seize the moral high ground.

Reclaiming the Language

One thing is certain, and that is that, as a beginning, the Tocquevillians must reclaim the language of morality. We must reject the premise of every Gramscian philosophical argument and examine the language used to find the true meaning. We must take advantage every opportunity to expose the liberal Gramscian lie.

We must demand of our institutions, particularly the media and our schools, that they explain or defend the relativistic "truths" broadcast to our living rooms or fed to the minds of our children.

Tocquevillians must stop allowing themselves to be put in the losing position of defending their beliefs against arguments that assume the moral high road and instead reject the arguments themselves as being based on false assumptions. In this way we will gradually re-claim that "most insidious tool of all", the language, and begin the long journey back to America the way it was intended to be - a nation of free and responsible individuals, subjects to no one.