Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview
value attitudes toward this situation, but this does not alter the facts.

Genuine parliamentary representation with the voluntary play of interests in the political sphere, the corresponding plebiscitary party organization with its consequences, and the modern idea of rational representation by interest groups, are all peculiar to the modern Western World. None of these is understandable apart from the peculiar Western development of social stratification and class structure. Even in the Middle Ages the seeds of these phenomena were present in the Western World but only there. It is only in the Western World that "cities" in the peculiar corporate sense "estates" (rex et regnum), "bourgeois," and "proletarians" have existed.


NOTES
1.
Ständische Repräsentation.
2.
The facts are in many respects best presented in the brilliantly polemical attack on the system by W. Hasbach which has erroneously been called a "political description." The author in his own essay, Parlament und Regierung im neugeordneten Deutschland, has been careful to emphasize that it is a polemical work which has arisen out of the particular situation of the time.

60
Social Conditions of the Anglo-American

A lexis de Tocqueville

Among nations whose law of descent is founded upon the right of primogeniture, landed estates often pass from generation to generation without undergoing division; the consequence of this is that family feeling is to a certain degree incorporated with the estate. The family represents the estate, the estate the family, whose name, together with its origin, its glory, its power, and its virtues, is thus perpetuated in an imperishable memorial of the past and as a sure pledge of the future.

When the equal partition of property is established by law, the intimate connection is destroyed between family feeling and the preservation of the paternal estate; the property ceases to represent the family; for, as it must inevitably be divided after one or two generations, it has evidently a constant tendency to diminish and must in the end be completely dispersed. The sons of the great landed proprietor, if they are few in number, or if fortune befriends them, may indeed entertain the hope of being as wealthy as their father, but not of possessing the same property that he did; their riches must be composed of other elements than his. Now, as soon as you divest the landowner of that interest in the preservation of his estate which he derives from association, from tradition, and from family pride, you may be certain

that, sooner or later, he will dispose of it; for there is a strong pecuniary interest in favor of selling, as floating capital produces higher interest than real property and is more readily available to gratify the passions of the moment.

Great landed estates which have once been divided never come together again; for the small proprietor draws from his land a better revenue, in proportion, than the large owner does from his; and of course he sells it at a higher rate. 1 The reasons of economy, therefore, which have led the rich man to sell vast estates will prevent him all the more from buying little ones in order to form a large one.

What is called family pride is often founded upon an illusion of self-love. A man wishes to perpetuate and immortalize himself, as it were, in his great‐ grandchildren. Where family pride ceases to act, individual selfishness comes into play. When the idea of family becomes vague, indeterminate, and uncertain, a man thinks of his present convenience; he provides for the establishment of his next succeeding generation and no more. Either a man gives up the idea of perpetuating his family, or at any rate he seeks to accomplish it by other means than by a landed estate.

Thus, not only does the law of partible inheritance render it difficult for families to preserve their ancestral domains entire, but it deprives them of the inclination to attempt it and compels them in some

____________________
From Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), I, 49-57. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

-384-

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