An essay about individuality, liberty and equality in the context of "Looking Backward: 2000-1887" by Edward Bellamy and Alexis de Tocqueville's, "Democracy in America"

Essay by kuriouskatUniversity, Bachelor'sB, February 2006

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Is there an inherent contradiction between a strong desire for individuality and one of community? Can a society function with equal emphasis on liberty and equality? These are two questions which arose while examining Edward Bellamy's, Looking Backward, and Alexis de Tocqueville's, Democracy in America. In Looking Backward, Julian West serves as the narrator taking the reader on a journey in which he finds himself in a unique position to study his own socio-political times with that of the future. Having fallen sleep on May 30, 1887, he awakens to the date September 10, 2000, during a time where most of the problems that ran rampant during his day have been solved. The old economy of private capital has evolved into an economy of public capital, what Bellamy considers a natural outcome of the increasing concentration of private capital into fewer and fewer hands.

There are several intrinsic problems associated with individualism, which Bellamy felt lay at the heart of what was wrong with society in 1887.

The most obvious is the wide gap between the rich and the poor. Many believed, and still believe in our own year 2001, that there is no way to eliminate the gap, while others are quite insensitive to the whole matter. The privileged few sometimes do try to ease the suffering of the impoverished, however they are first and foremost concerned with maintaining their own wealth. Many, I imagine, simply feel above it all, the notion that somehow they are wealthy because they worked harder and deserve it more. Meanwhile, there is no doubting that the industrial revolution experienced in the 1800's increased production to incredible heights and was far more efficient than older systems. It allowed for standardized goods and increased standards of living. However, the greatest amounts of wealth continued...