Tyranny of the Majority and Other Dangers: deTocqueville and Mill

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On April 14, Naomi Rinehold will give the seventh talk in the series “The Gutenberg Dialogues: An In-depth Look at Tyranny.”

Half a century after the publication of the Federalist Papers and the subsequent ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat, took an academic tour of the new country. In the resulting treatise, Democracy in America, he echoes the founders’ concerns about a potential tyranny of the majority. He considers whether such tyranny could be the inevitable outcome in the United States. Twenty years later, British philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that this preoccupation with tyranny of the majority was distracting people from the real danger—an insidious social tyranny which required no laws or governments to operate. How well did these two predict America’s path? One hundred and sixty years after Mill, do we face either kind of tyranny, or perhaps a curious combination of the two?

Naomi Rinehold is Gutenberg’s student services administrator. She earned a B.A. in History at Campbellsville University in Kentucky and then spent eight years teaching in Argentina—first ESL students at a rural school and then teenagers at Buenos Aires International Christian Academy. After returning stateside, she earned a B.A. in philosophy at the University of Oregon while living at Gutenberg, and she then moved to Knoxville where she earned an M.A. and, in 2019, a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Tennessee.

 

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