Harvey Mansfield is now 89 and a political philosophy professor at Harvard, considered a leading authority on Tocqueville. He wrote a 60 page introduction to Democracy in America in the 2000 Chicago Press edition. The intro alone is worth the price of the book.
From Persuasion, The Conservative Case for Philosophical Liberalism, Yascha Mounk interviews Harvey Mansfield.
And that means that intellectuals have become a kind of danger to democracy. Democratic intellectuals don’t believe in the mind, or the power of the mind. But they believe in grandiose theories of material motions, movements, large-scale causes which overcome individual accomplishments or thoughts or philosophy. So, philosophy gets democratized. And this goes together with the further attack on the mind. We see this wonderful paradox today that democratic intellectuals want more democracy than the American people—who are not intellectuals—want. They speak for the people and ask for reforms that the people themselves haven’t thought of or aren’t demanding or wouldn’t care about really but for their intellectuals, who impose on them. This means that the intermediate associations between the government, or the intellectuals, and the people, get hollowed out and weakened, such that a democratic people runs the danger of what Tocqueville called individualism, which is falling back on your own devices, and your intimate friends and your family, in the belief that there’s nothing you can do to affect society or politics as a whole.
So politics loses its sense of accomplishment, achievement, and potential power. And this means that you settle into a kind of centralized bureaucracy, where the government does everything: it takes over from you the pain of living, Tocqueville says. It lives things for you. This is aided by modern technology: for example, toilets that flush themselves. Even this elementary duty of disposing of your effluvia is taken over from you. We see this with the great advance of bureaucracy in the universities and, during COVID, all the ways in which our lives are planned for us, and we are given experts who mainly show us how, not why, to obey different rules, and not how to act on your own.