Between State and Society
It is no coincidence that in establishing the right to serve on juries, the U.S. Supreme Court cited Tocqueville. His concern with “education of the people” reflected his belief that democratic citizenship cannot simply be given to free citizens. Rather, the democratic form of citizenship requires a practical and moral education that molds private citizens into politically engaged advocates and public-spirited, deliberative participants in collective decision making.
Political theorist Laura Janara draws out these themes in Democracy Growing Up—an analysis of Tocqueville’s famous work as a theory of psychological and social development. Tocqueville repeatedly drew parallels between the young American nation and human adolescence. This metaphor, Janara explains, “captures the moment of world-historical change led by the American experiment; it captures the emergent democratic passion for the idea of equality and the proud separation from the smothering forces of England.”1 Just as the young nation was finding its way to becoming a mature democracy, so in every such society must each individual citizen leave the private home and step into the public sphere as a democratic citizen.
“In Tocqueville’s mind,” Janara writes, “the art of political liberty is learned through an apprenticeship in collective deliberation practices in political, judicial, and civil associations.”2 As an example, consider Tocqueville’s analogy that local public institutions, such as town meetings, “are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within the people’s reach” and teach us “how to use and how to enjoy it.” Political and civil associations teach their members “how order is maintained among a large number” and how “they are made to advance, harmoniously and