Tocqueville & Marx (Raymond Aron)

Raymond Aron, en relativ nykomling i min skara av intellektuella idoler, skriver följande angående artonhundratalets två främsta samhällstänkare.

It would be easy to analyze the dialogue between Tocqueville and Marx that we have just sketched according to a sociological and so to speak Marxist method. One was an aristocrat, who rallied to democracy by reason and not sentiment, but who, though sometimes demonstrating the coming of a radically different order, remained the defender of the existing structure and was passionately hostile to socialism. The other was by origin a bourgeois but, in revolt against a bourgeoise that betrayed its own values, became the representative of the working class, denouncing the injustices it was subjected to and announcing the revenge the future would bring. One, out of social conservatism, made himself, against his private preferences, the theoretician of liberal democracy, that is to say, bourgeois democracy; the other wanted to be, with total commitment, the theoretician as well as the leader of an organized working class.

[. . .]

The two men shared a distaste for opportunism, a total fidelity to themselves and their ideas. Tocqueville retired from politics the day Louis Napoleon violated the constitution and reestablished the empire. Karl Marx, until the end of his life, remained a rebel, committed to the struggle against a cruel society and for a class that bore the whole brunt of social injustice. Both believed in freedom, both had as a goal a just society, but one would leave industry and commerce to themselves, to be spontaneously run by individuals under the control of laws, and feared that the individual might come to lose independence-freedom and participation-freedom all at once. The other held the free activity of individuals in industry and commerce to be the cause of the servitude of all. Thus, for one the major condition of freedom was representative government and for the other, economic revolution.

This contrast can easily be explained by the origins, careers, and temperaments of the two men, yet not without a paradox that deserves to be stressed: it was a Norman aristocrat who became the doctrinaire of liberal democracy, the son of a Rhenish bourgeois who became the prophet of the fourth estate. It was in the United States that the descendant of European nobility studied the model of the future society. It was in Victorian England that the young Hegelian completed his economic studies and borrowed from Ricardo the concepts and methods thanks to which he tried to give scientific form to his hopes and indignation.


Med tanke på Swedbergs bok om Tocqueville som ekonomisk tänkare så är det intressant att notera Arons förklaring till att det var Tocqueville snarare än Marx som fick rätt angående den ekonomiska utvecklingen. Tocqueville ansåg att utvecklingen gick mot en spridning av välståndet, en mer jämlik fördelning och uppkomsten av ett samhälle som i grund och botten bestod av en gigantisk medelklass. Marx trodde som bekant på motsatsen: att kapitalet skulle koncentreras i allt färre händer och därmed att småborgarna och annan medelklass skulle komma att proletariseras – vilket till slut leder till den stora omvälvningen.

Nu kan man, som Raymond Aron, fråga sig: ”Why was it that the man who reasoned in political terms and not the one who had read all the economic books foresaw the diffusion of prosperity?”.

One answer would be to claim the superiority of naive observation and historical experience over the unilateral and imperfect arguments of specialists. [. . .] As for the development of productive capacity and technical revolutions, [Tocqueville] knew no more and said no more than  any other educated man of his time. But he believed in all simplicity that the combination of increased resources and a democratic climate would probably lead to an improvement in the destiny of most and not to the contrast between an excess of misery at one extreme and an excess of wealth at the other.

[. . .]

In the prosperous West of 1963, Marx seems to have been wrong in economic matters, precisely an area in which he was one of the most learned and erudite men of his times, and Tocqueville seems to have divined the future despite his ignorance (a relative ignorance, of course) and perhaps thanks to it. Propelled by his common sense or by his intuition, he admitted without solid proof or deep analysis that a society obsessed by the concern for material well-being will assure to the majority the moral status and economic conditions of the middle class.

Dessa hänvisningar till intution, sunt förnuft och naiv observation är naturligtvis ganska innehållslösa, och är det något man kan hoppas få ut av Richard Swedbergs bok så är det en förståelse av hur Tocqueville egentligen resonerade i ekonomiska spörsmål. Det kapitel som står på tur är för övrigt ”Tocqueville’s Background in Economics”, vilket borde kunna ge svar angående Tocquevilles ”relative ignorance” och hur pass teoretiskt bevandrad han egentligen var. Kanske har Aron bedragits av Tocquevilles benägenhet att undvika att referera till sina källor och bakgrundsmaterial?

Raymond Aron, ”The Liberal Definition of Freedom”, Politics and History, Transaction Publishers (Macmillan), 1984, s. 154–7.

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