The Roots of the Arab Spring   /   Fall 2011   /    Essays

Beyond Tocqueville’s Telescope

The Personalized Brand and the Branded Self

Arlie Hochschild and Sarah B. Garrett

© iStockPhoto/MandarineTree.

During a nine-month voyage in 1833, Alexis de Tocqueville became an enthusiastic admirer of the new America—the equality between its citizens, the can-do of its workers, and the boldness of its women. A man of aristocratic bearing, with a trim brown beard framing a thoughtful face, Tocqueville was 28 years old at the time. But he carried from his native France, and applied to all he saw in America, a penetrating curiosity and a formidable power of observation. It was these that led him to write astutely about American individualism and materialism. In the second volume of Democracy in America, he described individualism as:

A mature and calm feeling which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellows and to draw apart with his family and his friends so that he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself.11xAlexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. II, book 2 (New York, NY: Knopf, 1945), 98. Originally published 1840.

To read the full article online, please login to your account or subscribe to our digital edition ($25 yearly). Prefer print? Order back issues or subscribe to our print edition ($30 yearly).