Why Nothing Resists the Majority?

Tocqueville said that nothing resists the majority and especially in the US “a number of specific circumstances tend […] to make the power of the majority […] not just predominant but irresistible.”
We may agree that this is true. But what about other Tocqueville’s claims. Let’s see, for example in the context of the Lottery, the claim that “The power of the majority, like all powers – and maybe more than others – needs to endure if it is to appear legitimate […] it gains obedience through coercion [and] only after people have lived for a long time under its laws do they begin to respect it. But had not the Lottery ritual been respected from the very beginning, why people did not raise their voice against? Isn’t democratic decision of the majority legitimate from the very principle?

To a certain point, I do not agree with Tocqueville here. The power of majority can grow suddenly and from nothing particular. It is a combination of different factors leading to consensus among many against the opinion of minorities. The only thing is that with time it is getting worse see Lottery quote: “It’s not the way it used to be. “Old Man Warner said clearly. “People ain’t the way they used to be.” People, especially those with conservative minds, when adopting the custom as a tradition, tend to live that custom making it worse and almost irreversible to change. People enjoying throwing stones are clear example of this rule.American_Majority_(logo)

Tocqueville further claims that “The moral ascendency of the majority rests in part on the idea that there is more enlightenment and wisdom in an assembly of many than in the mind of one.” If only this was true. Seeing the Gaussian function applied on wisdom, we have to say right the opposite. We cannot believe that he majority is doing right, it has just voice too strong to let the minority voices to be heard sometimes.  “The moral ascendency of the majority [may] also rest on the principle that the interests of the many [are] preferred to those of the few,” which does not happen every time. Or does it? On the level of society, it is true but what about the level of state? Is it true that the majority is in the US more powerful than the wealthy white men elite when pushing opinions or rules ahead? Tocqueville asks further questions when looking at the American society. As “a nation is like a jury charged with representing universal society and applying the justice which is its law. Should the jury, which represents society, have more power than the society whose laws it applies?” Going back to the Lottery should the tradition represented by the black box, which no one liked to upset and those running it; be stronger than the society itself?flock-of-sheep-in-a-field-after-the-harvest-1889

We know that “the consequences of this state of affairs are dire and spell danger for the future”, I say let’s think about the dangers for today. We should not be misled and should stay cautious because even though the majority has a voice it is always led, motivated or manipulated by one or few individuals and their thoughts. People are maybe only a flock someone must make run the same presently desirable direction. 

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1 Response to Why Nothing Resists the Majority?

  1. dasboot01 says:

    I really liked this piece since it touches on majority’s opinions but only being represented through a few. I enjoyed that you brought up “The Lottery” and how even though the majority of the town seemed to support their tradition, their support wasn’t through conventional means. With the town very few resisted the practices and no one spoke up besides Tess. In this case silence was the same as majoritarianism and the whole town watched as Mr. Summers and the Old Man were the vocal leaders and representatives of the community. I think this is the case with today’s America where citizens elect our representatives and don’t always hold them accountable to how well they represent the constituents. There is often trust of a candidate just because they wear the same party identity without much research going into whether one agrees with policy or not. I think majoritarianism forms from lack of education and laziness among a population which leads to representatives being selected who don’t actually represent the people, leading to situations like what is in the U.S. and in the story “The Lottery.”

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