Alexis de Tocqueville as Comparative Analysts
Alexis de Tocqueville has been widely hailed and extensively analyzed as a perceptive and brilliant commentator on American society; as a profound prophet; as a theorist of mass society; as an original thinker on the history and sociology of revolutions and, to a lesser extent, as a political figure involved in and around the Revolution of 1848 in France. However, his work has not been extensively analyzed from the standpoint of comparative analysis, even though his comparative emphasis is widely appreciated.
In undertaking such an analysis, I intend to treat Tocqueville's two classic works - Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the French Revolution - as a single study in comparative sociological explanation. At first glance this may seem unjustified, because the publication of the two works was separated by more than 20 years, and because the former is primarily an attempt to describe, account for, and examine the consequences of the conditions of social equality in an entire nation; and the latter is an attempt to account for the rise, development, and consequences of a monumental historical event. Study of the works reveals, however, that in both of them Tocqueville was preoccupied with a set of intellectual issues concerning equality and inequality, freedom and despotism, and political stability and instability. Furthermore, the works constitute something of a double-mirror; Tocqueville's analysis of the condition of America is continually informed by his diagnosis of French society, and vice versa. And finally, as I hope to demonstrate, a single perspective on social structure and social change informs his insights about each nation and renders the two nations comparable.
The chapter will be divided into three sections. In the first I shall outline Tocqueville's view of Western social structure - with special reference to equality - and its historical development. In the second I shall outline his account of different conditions of equality and his account of the differences between the United States and France. And in the third section I shall identify his comparative strategies - the kinds of empirical data and logical argumentation he used to buttress his case.
Tocqueville's General Perspective on Society and Change
It is possible to discern in Tocqueville's work an overriding preoccupation with a single issue, without reference to which most of his observations or insights cannot be appreciated. This issue is social equality versus social inequality.
In considering this issue, moreover, Tocqueville tended to think of two extreme ways of structuring equality in society - the aristocratic, in which equality was minimized, and the democratic, in which it was maximized. And though Tocqueville did not develop anything like a methodology of the "ideal type," his use of the notions of aristocracy and democracy throughout his work suggests that they are, indeed, abstract concepts to which no empirical instance corresponds perfectly, but to which different degrees of historical approximation may be found.
Tocqueville looked back to 11th-century France to find an approximation of the pure case of a society organized according to aristocratic values:
"the territory was divided among a small number of families, who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of the inhabitants; the right of governing descended with the family inheritance from generation to generation; force was the only means by which man could act on man; and landed property was the sole source of power".
While unequal from the standpoint of distribution of wealth and power, France and other societies in medieval Europe, were nonetheless regulated by a web of customs and understandings that inhibited the development of despotism:
"There was a time in Europe when the laws and the consent of the people had invested princes with almost unlimited authority, but they scarcely ever availed themselves of it. I do not speak of the prerogatives of the nobility, of the authority of high courts of justice, of corporations and their chartered rights, or of provincial privileges, which served to break the blows of sovereign authority and keep up a spirit of resistance in the nation. Independently of these political institutions, which, however opposed they might be to personal liberty, served to keep alive the love of freedom in the mind and which may be esteemed useful in this respect, the manners and opinions of the nation confined the royal authority. Within barriers that were not less powerful because less conspicuous. Religion, the affections of the people, the benevolence of the prince, the sense of honor, family pride, provincial prejudices, custom, and public opinion limited the power of kings and restrained their authority within an invisible circle. The constitution of nations was despotic at that time, but their customs were free. Princes had the right, but they had neither the means nor the desire of doing whatever they pleased.
For an approximation of the pure case of democratic society, Tocqueville looked toward the United States of America. Writing in 1835, he saw America as the nation where the social evolution toward equality "seems to have nearly reached its natural limits. In direct contrast to aristocratic society, its laws of inheritance call for equal partition of property, which makes for a "constant tendency [for property] to diminish and… in the end be completely dispersed. Tocqueville commented on Americans' love of money, but added that "wealth circulates with inconceivable rapidity, and experience shows that it is rare to find two succeeding generations in the full enjoyment of it.
Tocqueville argued that democratic societies are likely to become despotic as men turn away from public affairs, as government becomes more centralized, and as public opinion develops into a tyranny of the majority. Yet Tocqueville found in America a number of social forces that "allow a democratic people to remain free". He singled out various "accidental" factors contributing to this effect, such as the absence of hostile neighboring powers," but he emphasized laws and customs as the most important forces. Among the laws, he identified the principle of federal union, the institutionalization of townships, and the judicial system; and among the customs he stressed the presence of a common religion that encourages liberty, the separation of church and state, a common language, and a high level of education." Comparing the impact of laws and customs, he found the latter more decisive." He also regarded the freedom of the press and the presence of voluntary political associations as important mechanisms to forestall the development of despotism."
Nothing stands out more clearly in Tocqueville's work than his conviction of the inexorability of the Western historical transition from aristocracy to democracy, from inequality to equality. In 1832 he wrote that the development of the principle of equality is "a providential fact. It has all the chief characteristics of such a fact: it is universal, it is lasting, it constantly eludes all human interference, and all events as well as all men contribute to its progress." Writing in 1848, he professed not to be surprised at the events of the recent revolution in France, because of his long awareness of the universality and irresistibility of the advance of the principle of equality. And in 1856 he wrote that "all our contemporaries are driven on by a force that we may hope to regulate or curb, but cannot overcome, and it is a force impelling them, sometimes gently, sometimes at headlong speed, to the destruction of aristocracy.
Furthermore, Tocqueville found many of the roots of despotism, tyranny, and instability in the transition between aristocracy and democracy. If any single proposition dominates his interpretation of the cause of the French Revolution and its excesses, it is this: France had historical origins similar to many other European and indeed American societies.
But in the 18th century France had experienced certain changes thad partially destroyed aristocratic society and partially advanced the principle of equality. It was this unstable mixture of the two principles that made for the dissatisfaction, selfishness and self-seeking, conflict, despotism, and diminished national morale that culminated in the revolutionary convulsion late in the century. One of the advantages that America possessed, moreover, was that it was able to start afresh, to establish a democracy without having to go through the pains of destroying an aristocracy." [America] is reaping the fruits of the democratic revolution, which we are undergoing, without having had the revolution itself.
Two fundamental distinctions thus inform Tocqueville's comparative work. The first is the distinction between aristocracy and democracy; the second is between either of these conditions, institutionalized consistently, and the social condition built on a mixture of both. The comparison between 18th-century France and 19th-century America, then, becomes one of a society that had proceeded part way along the transition from aristocratic to democratic, with one that had been born democratic, as it were, and manifested the characteristics of a democratic system in relatively pure form. Within this kind of comparison furthermore, a number of specific questions emerged: By what historical process is aristocratic society eroded by the principles of equality? How does this contrast with the historical development of the principle of equality de nova? What consequences for ideas and social outlook are generated by these two conditions of society?" What are the political consequences that follow from these ideas, particularly with respect to political revolution and the development of despotism?
Tocqueville's Explanation of the Differences between France &America
France versus America:
equality obtained at the cost of aristocracy versus "pure" equality
Two historical trends were especially powerful in undermining the principle of aristocracy in 18th-century France, according to Tocqueville: the centralization and paternalization of government and the partial advance of certain social classes in French society toward equality.
Tocqueville devoted much of the early part of his work on the ancien regime to describing the extensive centralization of powers in the government in Paris:
"We find a single central power located at the heart of the kingdom and controlling public administration throughout the country. A single Minister of State in charge of almost all the internal affairs of the country. In each province a single representative of government supervising every detail of the administration. No secondary administrative bodies authorized to take action on their own initiative; and, finally, "exceptional" courts for the trial of cases involving the administration or any of its officers."
Why had this centralization taken place? Tocqueville noted simply that the government "merely yielded to the instinctive desire of every government to gather all the reins of power into its own hands." Far as these tendencies proceeded, they had not gone all the way. Local assemblies still existed, though they had no real power; those who had been previously in the ruling classes still possessed their ranks and titles, "but all effective authority was gradually withdrawn from them." The old aristocratic order was in a state of partial eclipse.
Other groups had also experienced changes in their social condition, but unlike the aristocracy - which was being edged out of its former position of influence - they had enjoyed partial advances. The bourgeois class had improved its situation with respect to wealth, education, and style of life but it had failed to gain access to various feudal rights." The peasants owned more land than in times past and had been freed from the harshness of government and landlords, but were still subjected to certain traditional duties and taxes. In addition, "in an age of industrial progress [the peasants] had no share in it; in a social order famed for its enlightenment they remained backward and uneducated."
Why should these changes have been unsettling to all these groups? To answer this question Tocqueville invoked - though only implicitly - a version of the social-psychological principle we now refer to as "relative deprivation." The social changes experienced in 18th-century France produced a number of groups, which were losing in some respects while retaining or gaining in others. For Tocqueville these inconsistencies were psychologically more unsettling than the social arrangements of aristocratic feudalism, for under that system men might have been worse off in some absolute sense, but their access to the good things in life was organized according to a consistent principle. On the basis of this assumption Tocqueville argued that the various groups - noblemen, middle classes, and peasants - were more dissatisfied with the state of affairs in France than they had been in the past.
This complicated system of social inequities had the consequence of isolating these groups and setting them at odds with one another. Each group tried to clutch those privileges that it had, to gain those it did not have, and to rid itself of burdens not shared by other groups. Relative deprivation also appeared to foster a peculiar form of social aloofness and antagonism:
"While the bourgeois and nobleman were becoming more and more alike in many ways, the gap between them was steadily widening, and these two tendencies, far from counteracting each other, often had the opposite effect... the bourgeois was almost as aloof from the "common people" as the noble from the bourgeois.
The central government itself welcomed this social divisiveness, since the consequence was that no single group could muster the strength to challenge its power. The cumulative effect of all these conditions was to leave 18th-century France in a very precarious state of integration:
"Once the bourgeois had been completely severed from the noble, and the peasant from both alike, and when a similar differentiation had taken place within each of these three classes, with the result that each was split up into a number of small groups almost completely shut off from each other, the inevitable consequence was that, though the nation came to seem a homogeneous whole, its parts no longer held together. Nothing had been left that could obstruct the central government, but, by the same token, nothing could shore it up. This is why the grandiose edifice built up by our Kings was doomed to collapse like a card castle once disturbances arose within the social order on which it was based."
By contrast Tocqueville saw in America a multitude of factors making for a general equality of condition, and inhibiting the development of either aristocracy or centralization. Many factors inherited from the colonial tradition contributed to this: the unifying effect of a common language; the common social origins of most of the immigrants; land in plenty; an emphasis on education; and a religious tradition that nourished a spirit of liberty. He identified the township as a particularly important corrective to centralization. The township was "the nucleus around which the local interests, passions, rights, and duties collected and clung. It gave scope to the activity of a real political life, thoroughly democratic and republican. The township was able to resist the incursion of the states and the federal government; it was, in fact, the generalization of the loyalty to the small township at the national level that gave American patriotism its distinctive character. Interestingly, Tocqueville found a point of Common origin to the French parish and the North American township - the medieval rural parish. In America, however, the parish had been "free to develop a total independence" as it grew into the township, whereas in Europe it had been "controlled at every turn by an all-powerful government." The French and American systems of local government thus "resembled each other - in so far as a dead creature can be saidto resemble one that is very much alive."
Out of their colonial origins the Americans had created a federal constitution, electoral and party systems, and a free press, all of which contributed to the political liberty of the people. Tocqueville repeatedly stressed that the Americans were a people dominated by uniform customs and by the sway of public opinion; but politically America contrasted with many of the European countries in that relatively little control over the lives of the people was exercised by a centralized government.
What effect did these conditions of equality and liberty have on feelings of relative deprivation, and on the relations among groups and classes in society? Tocqueville certainly saw the Americans as an ambitious, restless, and chronically dissatisfied people. And he believed that these characteristics arose from the condition of equality. When ranks are intermingled and men are forever rising or sinking in the social scale, there always exists a class of citizens "whose fortunes are decreasing" and a class of citizens "whose fortune is on the increase, but whose desires grow much faster than their fortunes." Under conditions of equality the slightest inequalities are likely to become the source of frustration and the object of envy. Among democratic nations, men easily attain a certain equality of condition, but they can never attain as much as they desire. It perpetually retires from before them, yet without hiding itself from their sight and in retiring draws them on. At every moment they think they are about to grasp it; it escapes at every moment from their hold. They are near enough to see its charms, but too far off to enjoy them; and before they have fully tasted its delights, they die.
The spiritual life of a democratic nation, then, reveals a kind of haunting melancholy in the midst of abundance.
Having acknowledged this great restlessness, however, Tocqueville proceeded to argue that its consequences for social instability were not significant. And in so doing he once again appealed to his distinction between aristocracy and democracy, citing 18th-century France as the mixture of the two. In aristocracies, great inequalities prevail, but dissatisfaction is low because "the people . . . get as much accustomed to poverty as the rich to their opulence. The latter bestow no anxiety on their physical comforts because they enjoy them without an effort; the former do not
think of things which they despair of obtaining, and which they hardly know enough of to desire." .
When ranks and privileges erode, however, and when the principle of equality begins to advance, ambition runs rampant:
"The desire of acquiring the comforts of the world haunts the imagination of the poor, and the dread of losing that of the rich. Many scanty fortunes spring up; those who possess them have a sufficient share of physical gratifications to conceive a taste for these pleasures, not enough to satisfy it. They never procure them without exertion, and they never indulge in them without apprehension. They are therefore always straining to pursue or retain gratifications so delightful, so imperfect, so fugitive.
The people inherit the standards of opulence of the old society, and combine them with the ambitiousness of the new. The result is a great gulf between expectations and reality.
As indicated, democratic societies are also characterized by great ambition and envy. But because social differences are less extreme, because the rich were once themselves poor, and because they do not hold themselves aloof from the poor, social distinctions are less invidious. People are ambitious, but their ambitions are limited by modest expectations. "Rich men who live amid democratic nations are . . . more intent on providing for their smallest wants than for their extraordinary enjoyments… thus they are more apt to become enervated than debauched."
Furthermore, democracies tend to individualize ambitions, and to throw men back upon themselves. Because no group is powerful enough to sway the fortunes of the nation, people "acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone". The principle of aristocracy, by contrast, links men into an organized system of estates. And once again, Tocqueville saw the transitional period of popular revolution as combining both aristocratic and democratic principles. Such a revolution creates "democratic confusion," in which ambition reigns, but in which it has not yet become completely individualized. Relative deprivation is still collectivized, and as a result "implacable animosities are kindled between the different classes of society." In democracies, collective action and collective conflict tend to be based less on class and more on the formation of voluntary associations, which Tocqueville interpreted as a corrective both to extreme individualism and isolation and to the tyranny of the majority that endangers democracies.
France versus America: revolutionary ideas versus pragmatism
Given these contrasts in social condition, it is not surprising that Tocqueville also found great differences in national ideas and outlook between France and America. Basically he found Frenchmen more speculative and revolutionary in outlook, Americans more pragmatic and conservative. Tocqueville invoked three kinds of explanations for these differences.
(1)The condition of equality itself accounts for the differences. As we have seen, Tocqueville viewed all classes in France as having moved part way toward the principle of equality, and all classes as rankling under the burden of institutional inconsistencies. An understanding of these circumstances helps to explain why a "total" revolutionary ideology developed in 18th-century France. The irregular decay of France's aristocracy had left a confused social system. All classes were experiencing inequities, but these took different forms in each class. The kind of ideology that was most likely to have widespread appeal among all classes was that which created "an imaginary ideal society in which all was simple, uniform, coherent, equitable, and rational in the full sense of the term". The particularities of each class's outlook could be subsumed only under a generalized belief, which reconstructed everything in society, rather than under one which tinkered only with some of its parts. Frenchmen believed that everything feudal had to be destroyed, and "all [classes] were quite ready to sink their differences and to be integrated into a homogeneous whole, provided no one was given a privileged position and rose above the common level." Such were some of the pressures to revolutionize and universalize ideas about man and society in 18th-century France.
In democratic America Tocqueville found a great deal of frantic activity, which took the form of "a small, distressing motion, a sort of incessant jostling of men, which annoys and disturbs the mind without exciting or elevating it." Yet great revolutionary ideas were rare. Tocqueville attributed this to the existence of equality. Democratic societies have some very wealthy and some very poor persons, but between these two groups stands "an innumerable multitude of men, who without being exactly either rich or poor, possess sufficient property to desire the maintenance of order, yet not enough to excite envy." Revolutions are not attractive to this middle class, because revolutions invariably threaten the property system. The majority of people in the United States, being directed toward commercial gains, displayed little inclination for ideas that threatened to modify the laws of property. Because of the differences in equality between America and Europe, Tocqueville concluded that "in America men have the opinions and passions of democracy; in Europe we still have the passions and opinions of revolution." For the same reason he saw the only serious possibility of revolution in America to lie in "the presence of the black race on the soil of the United States," a race, which continued to experience inequities in a system, dedicated to equality.
(2)The level of politiparticipation creates differences in political outlook. Tocqueville did perceive a penchant for generalizations among the Americans that was greater than that of the British. He attributed this also to the existence of equality in America: "He…who inhabits a democratic country sees around him on every hand men differing but little from one another; he cannot turn his mind to any one portion of mankind without expanding and dilating his thought till it embraces the whole." Yet he found eagerness for general political ideas to be greater in France than in America, which seems paradoxical, since he viewed democracy as generally less advanced in France than in America. He explained the difference, however, not in terms of equality of condition but in terms of the level of political participation. In America, where the institutions compel all citizens to take part in government, the "excessive taste for general theories in politics which the principle of equality suggests" is diminished. In France, by contrast, social conditions "led them to conceive very general ideas on the subject of government, while their political constitution prevented them from correcting those ideas by experiment and from gradually detecting their insufficiency." Frenchmen experienced only frustration when trying to make their voices heard in any meaningful political way; hence, they tended to be drawn to the more abstract principles generated by the philosophers." In noting these differences Tocqueville was enunciating what has become almost a sociological axiom: political exclusion and frustration generates generalized disaffection and Utopian thinking, whereas political participation generates moderation and a preoccupation with particulars.
(3)The place of religion in society creates differences in political outlook. Tocqueville noted that in America religion was not only separated from politics, but itself encouraged the principles of democracy. One consequence of this is that religious controversy was separated from political controversy, and the ideologies associated with each were also separated. As a result, these ideologies were more limited in their generality. In Europe, however, where the breakdown of the feudal order was incomplete, and where the church was intimately associated with the political life of the nation, "unbelievers . . . attack the Christians as their political opponents rather than as their religious adversaries." This fusion of religion and politics meant that protest became both more extreme and more generalized:
"Both religious institutions and the whole system of government were thrown into the melting pot, with the result that men's minds were in a state of utter confusion; they knew neither what to hold on to, nor where to stop. Revolutionaries of a hitherto unknown breed came on the scene: men who carried audacity to the point of sheer insanity; who balked at no innovation, and, unchecked by any scruples, acted with an unprecedented ruthlessness."
France versus America:
revolution and increased centralization versus stability and inhibited centralization
Everything so far indicates that Tocqueville viewed the institutions of France as predisposing her to great social revolutions, and the institutions of America as predisposing her to a social stability combined with frenetic individual activity. However, most of the conditions described - the level of centralization of government, the level of collectivized relative deprivation, and so on - are rather indeterminate in their character, and, of themselves, do not really explain the occurrence or lack of occurrence of a single historical event, such as a revolution. Rather, Tocqueville's reasoning thus far simply helps to understand the probability of the occurrence of such events.
Tocqueville was aware of the different levels of generality in the factors he used to explain the occurrence of the French Revolution. He devoted part two of The Old Regime and the French Revolution to specifying the "circumstances remote in time and of a general order which prepared the way for the great revolution. Most of the factors we have reviewed thus far fall into this category. Most of his explicit comparisons between France and America, moreover, were made at this level. But in order to gain a more precise explanation of the revolution, Tocqueville also examined (in part three) the "particular, more recent events which finally determined [the revolution's] place of origin, its outbreak, and the form it took. These include events such as the increasing relative deprivation of various classes in the decades before the revolution; various repressive measures, such as the abolition of the parliaments in 1771; hasty and ill-conceived reforms, some of which were quickly reversed and a variety of unjust practices against the poor.
Thus a kind of general model of historical causation emerges - a model of general, indeterminate causes, within the scope of which more particular and determinate causes are identified. On the basis of the combination of these predisposing and precipitating conditions, Tocqueville regarded the French revolution as "a foregone conclusion" The effect of the combined factors "was cumulative and overwhelming."
On the last two pages of his book on the French Revolution Tocqueville had recourse to yet another explanatory factor - French national character which made revolution "more drastic" than it was elsewhere:
"Ordinarily the French are the most routine-bound of men, but once they are forced out of the rut and leave their homes, they travel to the ends of the earth and engage in the most reckless ventures. Undisciplined by temperament, the Frenchman is always more ready to put up with the arbitrary rule, however harsh, of an autocrat than with a free, well-ordered government by his fellow citizens, however worthy of respect they be. . . . He is more prone to heroism than to humdrum virtue, apter for genius than for good sense, more inclined to think up grandiose schemes than to carry through great enterprises. Thus the French are at once the most brilliant and the most dangerous of all European nations, and the best qualified to become in the eyes of other peoples, an object of admiration, of hatred, of compassion, or alarm - never of indifference."
This "all-or-nothing" feature of the French temperament suggests that French revolutions would be more extreme than others. Add to this Tocqueville's earlier argument that the inequities among the several classes in 18th-century France made for a total onslaught on all the archaic institutions, and the inevitable conclusion unfolds. The extreme destructiveness of the French Revolution created the setting for an even more centralized government to enforce order in its wake:
"Since the object of the Revolution was not merely to change an old form of government but to abolish the entire social structure of pre-revolutionary France, it was obliged to declare war simultaneously on all established powers, to destroy all recognized prerogatives, to make short work of all traditions, and to institute new ways of living, new conventions... But beneath the seemingly chaotic surface there was developing a vast, highly centralized power... This new power was created by the Revolution, or rather, grew up almost automatically out of the havoc wrought by it. True, the governments it set up were less stable than any of those it overthrew; yet, paradoxically, they were infinitely more powerful".
The effect of French political ideas and actions, then, was to set in motion a circle of revolutionary instability and increasing centralization and despotism.
As we have seen, Tocqueville believed that the main forces of American democracy inhibited great revolutions and made for a generally stable social order. Yet he also saw many forces in democracies that increased the probability of despotism. In the fourth book of volume two of Democracy in America he set out to trace the political influence of democratic ideas, and in this effort he enunciated the following principle: "That the opinions of democraticnations about government are naturally favorable to the concentration of power." Since democracy minimizes the vesting of power and privileges in separate social groups, the possibility of strict uniformity of laws, emanating from a central source, arises. Furthermore, because democracies foster individualistic sentiments, they encourage attention to private affairs, and abandonment of public business to the state. Equality breeds conditions of individual independence and powerlessness, and the tendency is to rely on the state to protect the individual against others". In these ways democracy and centralization may become involved in a self-reinforcing spiral:
"[The] never dying, ever kindling hatred which sets a democratic people against the smallest privileges is peculiarly favorable to the gradual concentration of all political rights in the hands of the representative of the state alone... Every central power, which follows its natural tendencies, courts and encourages the principle of equality; for equality singularly facilitates, extends, and secures the influence of a central power."
Tocqueville found this spiral more pronounced in some democracies than others, and once again, he found the absence of aristocratic tradition in America to be important in diminishing the tendencies toward centralization. In America, equality was a characteristic of the people from their birth, whereas in Europe, "equality, introduced by absolute power and under the rule of kings, was already infused into the habits of nations long before freedom had entered into their thoughts." When the old regime was swept away by the storm, there remained a "confused mass," which was ready to turn powers over to the central state. Thus Tocqueville invoked his explanatory principle of the transition between aristocracy and democracy once again:
"The supreme power is always stronger, and private individuals weaker, among a democratic people that has passed through a long and arduous struggle to reach a state of equality than among a democratic community in which the citizens have been equal from the first. The example of the Americans completely demonstrates the fact. The inhabitants of the United States were never divided by any privileges; they have never known the mutual relation of master and inferior; and as they neither dread nor hate each other, they have never known the necessity of calling in the supreme power to manage their affairs. The lot of the Americans is singular: they have derived from the aristocracy of England the notion of private rights and the taste for local freedom; and they have been able to retain both because they have had no aristocracy to combat.
Tocqueville's Comparative Methods
Thus far I have been concerned mainly with the substance of Tocqueville's comparisons between France and America - the general perspective that informed these comparisons, the specific explanatory problems he posed, and his explanatory account of the contrasting histories of the two nations. Now we turn to the methods by which he attempted to demonstrate his case. What kind of comparative arguments did he use? To what kinds of data did he refer? What, in short, were his comparative strategies?
In approaching Tocqueville's methods, it must be remembered that his national comparisons and contrasts were made in the context of a partially formulated model of the complex interaction of historical forces. I have attempted to outline the guiding assumptions and the central propositions of this model in the foregoing pages. To facilitate the discussion of Tocqueville's comparisons, I have represented schematically, in figure 2-1, some of the "circumstances remote in time and of a general order" that predisposed France to revolutionary turmoil.
Several comments on figure 2-1 are in order. (1) I have entered as "variables" the historical forces identified by Tocqueville in The Old Regime and the French Revolution. The arrows indicate causal direction, as inferred from his analysis. Factors not in parentheses refer to features of French society identified by Tocqueville as critical to his analysis, whereas factors in parentheses indicate psychological assumptions and assertions employed by him to round out his analysis. (2) The chart is only a partial and illustrative representation of Tocqueville's theory. In particular, I have omitted any reference to his account of the "particular, more recent events" that affected the time and place of the Revolution's occurrence, as well as any reference to the political impact of the revolutionary ideology. These factors could, however, be represented in a way similar to figure 2-1. (3) If the figure were to be redrawn to represent the American case, different values would have to be entered for the several variables (for example, the variable of "centralization of French government" would be replaced by a variable such as "decentralization and the autonomy of the American township". In addition, a different "map" of causal forces would have to be constructed to represent the distinctive patterning of socio-cultural factors in 19th-century America. Finally, the American "map" would incorporate certain "accidental" geographical and historical factors that influenced the main variables.
Given Tocqueville's guiding conceptual framework and his desire to account for the divergent historical courses taken by France and America, it is not surprising that most of his comparative illustrations focused on the differences rather than the similarities between these two countries."
In pursuing these illustrations, moreover, Tocqueville used a number of related but distinguishable strategies.
1.Two-nation comparisons: different causes associated with different effects. Tocqueville's most common strategy was to identify two sets of different characteristics of two nations with the explicit or implicit claim that the differences on one set of characteristics (effects) are to be explained with reference to the other (causes). In discussing the causes of intensive group conflict in France, for example, Tocqueville noted that in Britain the social classes are less isolated from one another than they were in France, implying that group conflict was not likely to be so bitter in England. In discussing the importance of the "partial advance" of French peasants toward proprietorship and freedom, Tocqueville noted that this process had not gone nearly so far in either England or Germany," thus implying that the level of "relative deprivation" among both British and German peasants was less than in France. Or again, Tocqueville contrasted the centralization of France with the local autonomy of the United States, claiming that the former encroached on the powers and responsibilities of traditional aristocratic classes - thus increasing their dissatisfactions - whereas the latter avoided this effect by safeguarding the liberty of citizens."
By dozens of such contrasts Tocqueville sought to strengthen each of the causal links in his complicated explanatory account. The common element in all these illustrations is the assertion that different outcomes in two nations (for example, revolutionary turmoil versus relative political stability) can be traced to different historical causes. Furthermore, the fact that nations differing with respect to outcomes also differ with respect to causes lends greater plausibility to Tocqueville's case than would an illustration from one nation alone.
2.Within-nation comparisons: different causes associated with different effects. To bolster his causal arguments further, Tocqueville attempted to replicate between-nation differences by showing that the same relations existed within nations. After pointing out that peasants in England and Germany had advanced less than those in France Tocqueville turned to the German situation:
"It was chiefly along the Rhine that at the close of the eighteenth century German farmers owned the land they worked and enjoyed almost as much freedom as the French small proprietor; and it was there, too, that the revolutionary zeal of the French found its earliest and took most permanent effect. On the other hand, the parts of Germany which held out longest against the current of new ideas were those where the peasants did not as yet enjoy such privileges".
The within-Germany comparison thus yielded the same results as the France-Germany comparison. Noting that the general increase in prosperity in the second half of the 18th century aggravated the French social situation, Tocqueville observed that "it was precisely in those parts of France where there had been most improvement that popular discontent ran highest." And on a number of occasions he pointed to the internal differences in the United States - particularly between New England and the South - to show that variations in the equality of social conditions produced different results.
The logic of within-unit contrasts is identical to that of between-unit contrasts: to associate different effects with different causes. The objective of within-unit comparisons, moreover, is to lend greater plausibility to the causal assertion by observing the association in which it is presumably manifested in several different kinds of social units.
3.Within-unit comparisons over time: different causes associated with different effects. Tocqueville employed still another minor refinement on the method of citing differences. Arguing that the burst of prosperity just before the French Revolution was of great importance in precipitating the turbulence, he noted that "a study of comparative statistics makes it clear that in none of the decades immediately following the Revolution did our national prosperity make such rapid forward strides as in the two preceding it." In another passage he contrasted the severity of the 1789 revolution with the mildness of subsequent revolutions by pointing to the greater stability of the administrative system in the first half of the 19th century. Once again, the logic of contrast is the same as in the previous two illustrations: the difference is that time, rather than national unit or region, is the basis of variation.
4.Addition of a third, varying case to bolster a two-nation contrast. Most of Tocqueville's national analysis involved two-nation references that highlighted differences relevant to his causal framework. On occasion, however, he supplemented this basic strategy by developing a contrast among three cases. I have already illustrated this strategy on a general level: both pure democracy and pure aristocracy are opposed to the transitional mixture of the two principles. Let me now turn to a more specific illustration. In the third book of the second volume of Democracy in America, Tocqueville set out to trace the influence of equality on manners and customs. Among the objects of his attention were the relations between masters and servants. He began by noting that these relations were most distant in England, least distant in France, with America occupying a middle position. On first reading, this assertion struck me as anomalous, since in many respects Tocqueville regarded Britain as most aristocratic of the three, America as most democratic, and France as intermediate. He accounted for the differences, however, by relating them not only to the degree of equality in general, but also to the now familiar fact that aristocracy was in the process of breaking down in France. In England both masters and servants still constituted "small communities in the heart of the nation, and certain permanent notions of right and wrong are ultimately established among them." As a result, masters and servants agreed on the nature of "fame, virtue, honesty, and honor," and servants maintained themselves in a position of "servile honor." In America, by contrast, the relations between masters and servants were organized in a way, which made the two classes only temporarily unequal. The servant was willing to assume a subordinate role, because, he knew it was organized on a contractually reciprocal and functionally specific basis." England and America differed, then, on the kind of rules on which the master-servant relationship was legitimized.
In France, however, it was a matter of the breakdown of aristocratic rules by the partial intrusion of democracy. In such "sad and troubled times," Tocqueville saw:
"a confused and imperfect phantom of equality [haunting] the minds of servants; they do not at once perceive whether the equality to which they are entitled is to be found within or without the pale of domestic service, and they rebel in their hearts against a subordination to which they have subjected themselves and from which they derive actual profit. They consent to serve and they blush to obey; they like the advantages of service, but not the master; or, rather, they are not sure that they ought not themselves to be masters, and they are inclined to consider him who orders them as an unjust usurper of their own rights".
Given the nature of the contrast, Tocqueville was attempting to make between the "pure" types and one mixed type - the selection of one comparative example that included all three types strengthened his argument more than any two-way comparison might have done.
5.Identification of common characteristics of different nations to strengthen a preferred explanation. One of the consequences of democracy, Tocqueville argued, was to make the daily intercourse between people relatively simple and easy. To bolster this argument he cited the differences in the behavior of Americans and Englishmen traveling abroad. Americans are at once friends because they conceive of themselves as equal. Englishmen, however, are quiet and remote unless they happen to be of the same social rank. To convince his readers that differences in equality of condition were responsible for these differences in behavior, Tocqueville pointed to the fact that "Americans are connected with England by their origin, their religion, their language, and partially by their customs; they differ only in their social condition. It may therefore be inferred that the reserve of the English proceeds from the constitution of their country much more than from that of its inhabitants." The logic of this argument complements the procedure of simply citing differences: if it could be demonstrated that different outcomes (differences in daily comportment between Americans and English) are associated with similarities between the countries, this would constitute a prima facie case that the similarities cannot be operative as causes. Or, to put it more, succinctly, a common cause cannot have different effects, and hence, different causes must be sought within each separate nation.
6.Comparative statements with unknown comparative references. On most occasions Tocqueville was quite explicit in identifying the units which manifested the differences he wished to explain - units such as specific nations, specific regions, or specific periods in time. On occasion, however, the comparative referent was left implicit at best. The clearest illustration of the lack of explicitness is his characterization of the importance of the French temperament as a conditioning feature of the French Revolution. After describing this temperament, he concluded that "France alone could have given birth to revolution so sudden, so frantic, and so thorough-going, yet so full of unexpected changes of direction, of anomalies and inconsistencies." In this case no other temperaments were identified, and Tocqueville left it to the reader to fill in one or more "other" temperaments that would not have caused or permitted such turbulent effects. The argument is one variant of the method of analyzing differences so commonly found in Tocqueville's work, but in this instance the differing cases are not specified.
7.Two rhetorical "strategies": the elimination of apparently plausible ideas and the resolution of paradoxes. All the strategies considered up to this point have involved the explicit or implicit comparison of different data as between two - occasionally more - different social units, usually societies. In addition to using these strategies, Tocqueville somade his case more convincing by using a number of conceptual and stylistic devices. These devices are not exactly "comparative strategies" in the sense discussed above, but rather are attempts to establish a point by a particular style of persuasion.
On occasion Tocqueville began an argument with a statement of what was a plausible or received view. Then he proceeded to assert and then demonstrate that the truth was the opposite, or at least more complex than that which was commonly believed. Consider the following: "How the chief and ultimate aim of the Revolution was not, as used to be thought, to overthrow religious and to weaken political authority in France. Or, after describing the differences among master-servant relations in England, France, and America: "Such is the fact as it appears upon the surface of things; to discover the causes of that fact, it is necessary to search the matter thoroughly. Or again: "A first glance at the administration of France under the old order gives the impression of a vast diversity of laws and authorities, a bewildering confusion of powers. Going beyond this first glance, Tocqueville argued that, on the contrary, France had "a single central power located at the heart of the kingdom and controlling public administration throughout the country..." He then proceeded to account for this fact by one of his favorite notions: "Whenever a nation destroys its aristocracy, it almost automatically tends toward a centralization of power.
Closely related to this strategy of "going behind the scenes" is Tocqueville's occasional practice of staling an apparent paradox, then resolving it by making recourse to a new way of looking at the phenomenon. In discussing the differential spread of revolutionary fervor in European countries, Tocqueville first whetted the reader's appetite with a paradox:
"At first sight it may appear surprising that the Revolution, whose primary aim . . was to destroy every vestige of the institutions of the Middle Ages, should not have broken out in countries where those institutions had the greatest hold and bore most heavily on the people instead of those in which their yoke was relatively light.
He then "resolved" this paradox by substituting a new assumption for the one that was implicit in the paradox. The new assumption was the notion of relative deprivation - that a half-decayed social system is more burden some than a consistently organized system, even though the latter may be more oppressive.
The essence of such an argument is as follows: First, Tocqueville identified a historical phenomenon that, given "common sense" causal assumptions, appeared to be surprising or unexpected. Then, by a gradually unfolding argument, he pointed to another set of causes that made the effect "expected" after all. In this operation he was not uncovering any new data; rather he was modifying the intervening causal link and thus "making sense" of existing data.
The arguments of "eliminating plausible ideas" and "resolving paradoxes" are often persuasive. The persuasiveness, moreover, seems to me to rest on both cognitive and emotional grounds. On the one hand, they are persuasive in that they involve the creation of new hypotheses that are more nearly consistent with known data than other hypotheses. But there is a subtle emotional impact as well. By using these arguments Tocqueville led the reader to a world of new causes that other observers had either been unable to discern or had interpreted only superficially. Tocqueville's
style often conveys the impression that he is sharing secret discoveries with his readers. He thereby capitalized on the considerable psychological impact that is experienced when the apparently surprising and mysterious is converted into the expected and understandable.
Assessment of Tocqueville's Comparative Strategies
Having reviewed Tocqueville's array of comparative arguments, I turn now to what might be called a "methodological critique" of his comparative procedures. I venture this critique in a restricted sense. I do not intend to imply that Tocqueville should have proceeded differently in executing his studies, or that he ignored important concepts or sources of data. My intention is, rather, to discuss certain problems of inference that arise in his procedures and bear on the validity of his conclusions. For the moment I shall discuss these problems only with specific reference to Tocqueville's work; as the analysis of comparative methodology unfolds in various ways throughout the volume, however, we shall see that these problems are relevant to all comparative analysis and can be restated in more general terms.
I mention only in passing one large and obvious problem connected with Tocqueville's studies - the qualitative and impressionistic nature of much of the data on which he based his conclusions. Tocqueville was a thorough and indefatigable scholar, who attempted to maintain maximum objectivity in his research. Despite such qualities, much of the archival material available to him was necessarily limited. Furthermore, many of his comparisons were based on his impressions gained as a traveler, which, however penetrating, were of limited reliability. As a result, appropriate qualification must be exercised in accepting his comparative observations. Though I have stated the problem of the inadequacy of some of his data, I feel it would be tedious and unnecessary to examine in detail each of his conclusions according to the quality of data on which it was based. Instead, I shall focus on a number of more general problems in his comparative interpretations. I group these problems under three headings: (1) the use of indirect indicators for comparative variables; (2) the selection of comparative cases; (3) the imputation of causal relations to comparative associations.
1. The use of indirect indicators for comparative variables.From time to time Tocqueville noted in passing some of the methodological difficulties that arose in making national comparisons. At one point in Democracy in America he was led to inquire whether public expenditure was proportionately greater in France than in the United States. And in a remarkably detailed argument, he concluded that this could not be ascertained, both because the total wealth of neither country could be accurately known, and because the administrative and budgetary figures of the two countries were both incomplete and incomparable. Furthermore, he warned that even to attempt an approximate statistical comparison would be misleading, adding wryly that "the mind is easily imposed upon by the affectation of exactitude which marks even the misstatements of statistics; and it adopts with confidence the errors which are appareled in the forms of mathematical truth. Rather than adopt a direct measure, even an approximate one, however, Tocqueville gauged the prosperity of American citizens, "after having paid the dues of the state," and concluded that anyone who viewed the external appearance of Americans would "undoubtedly be led to the conclusion that the American of the United States contributes a much smaller portion of his income to the state than the citizen of France." Such a measure suffers not only from being impressionistic but also from the fact - acknowledged by Tocqueville - that the total wealth of the respective nations was not known. Tocqueville should perhaps not be criticized too severely since he affirmed in principle the desirability of a direct measure. Yet the indirect measure he used includes not only the methodological problems of a direct estimate, but additional ones as well.
The example just cited is a minor one, and inconsequential, on the whole, for Tocqueville's general analysis. A more serious problem arises in connection with his reliance on what I referred to as "relative deprivation." As we have seen, Tocqueville regarded this psychological condition as an important causal factor in his explanation of social stability and instability. In particular, he argued that the incongruity of the social condition of the population of 18th-century France - in wall the major classes were aware of discrepancies between their expectations and their experiences made for a higher level of social dissatisfaction than existed in societies that were organized on consistently aristocratic or consistently democratic principles. This dissatisfaction, moreover, generated group conflict and ultimately revolutionary overthrow in France, phenomena, which were much less in evidence in the other types of societies.
Most of the evidence that Tocqueville adduced to demonstrate the different levels of experienced deprivation in different societies is of two varieties: (1) data referring to the presumed social causes of the dissatisfaction (for example, that the French middle classes were advancing on some fronts and not others); and (2) data referring to the presumed social effects of the dissatisfaction (for example, group conflict, attraction to revolutionary beliefs). In most cases, that is, the evidence for deprivation is indirect, and refers either to its presumed causes or its presumed effects. To be sure, direct information on the psychological states of groups was scarcely available in Tocqueville's day, and the indirect measures were no doubt better than none. But with respect to the explanatory force of his argument, it is clear that without direct measures of deprivation Tocqueville's argument had to rest on the two unverified psychological generalizations: that discrepancies in status privileges are the source of greater dissatisfaction than absolute deprivations with respect to these privileges; and that these dissatisfactions manifest themselves in group conflict and revolutionary activity. Only with some direct measure of deprivation could the validity of these two generalizations - which are critical links in the chain of Tocqueville's reasoning - be established.
2. The selection of comparative cases.The main comparative preoccupation in Tocqueville's work lay in the systematic exploration of the similarities and differences between the United States and France. Sometimes, however, he cited other cases to underscore a point he was arguing (using England, Germany, Mexico, for example). I have already noted a number of these ancillary comparisons. In general, it is methodologically desirable to add more cases as a way of increasing the plausibility of comparative statements. Unless the investigator specifies the criteria by which additional cases are selected, however, he is likely to run two sorts of risks. First, he is likely to skip around illustratively, citing only a case or two that might support a point and ignoring other cases that may not be so clearly supportive. Second, to extract apparently similar (or different) phenomena from a variety of societies, without comparing also the socio-cultural context within which these phenomena occur, may lead to misinterpretations. As Tocqueville's work repeatedly illustrates, surface similarities between countries often turn out to be manifestations of very opposed principles of social organization - for example, the character of rural parishes in France and the local townships in America. By and large, Tocqueville seemed to have a keen intuitive sense for the socio-cultural context of any given social item. Nevertheless, unless the criteria by which different cases are selected are made explicit - that is, unless the respective contexts are specified - there is a danger of comparing phenomena, which in fact are not comparable.
Tocqueville's comparative references are selective in a second sense. As we have seen, all his specific comparisons must be read in connection with the causal framework that informs his work. Most of his comparative illustrations were meant to demonstrate the validity of a single causal link in this framework, usually by pointing to salient differences between two cases. But comparative data were not brought to bear equally on all the links in the framework, and, as a result, some of the causal links are not "proved" - in so far as Tocqueville's comparative method offers limited proof - by comparative reference.
In particular, Tocqueville's most extensive comparative illustrations were made with reference to the "circumstances remote in time and of a general order," that is, to the general institutional characteristics of 18th-century France and their contrasting counterparts in America. The same cannot be said of the "particular, more recent events" preceding the French Revolution. In part three of The Old Regime and the French Revolution - where he examined these events - very few comparative references to America (or to any other country, for that matter) are to be found. The reason is not difficult to ascertain. When general, predisposing characteristics of a nation's culture and social structure are being compared, broad classes of events can be subsumed under general comparative categories - such as the structuring of equality or inequality, or the centralization of government. But when it comes to a comparative analysis of discrete historical events - a legislative act, a governmental decree, a strike, for example these are most difficult to compare directly, because they derive their meaning and significance from the context established by the general, predisposing characteristics. It would have been difficult, for example, to compare the impact of specific changes in welfare policy in late 18th-century France and England, without at the same time investigating previous structural and cultural contexts that imbued these policies within meaning. Only when a common socio-cultural context can be reasonably assumed, is the direct comparative analysis of specific historical events possible.
3. The imputation of causal relations to comparative associations.Because Tocqueville was dealing with historical material, the experimental method - one of the most powerful tools for establishing causal relations was not available to him. In addition, because the number of comparative cases (countries) at his disposal was very small, his ability to prove the actual operativeness of the causes he posited was correspondingly restricted. The number of variables in his causal network vastly exceeded the number of societies he studied. As a result, it was not possible to use the procedures of multivariate analysis to rule out spurious causes, and to increase confidence in suspected causes, even if these procedures had been available to him. (These limitations, incidentally, are not peculiar to Tocqueville's work. They apply to all attempts to study multi-variable systems when only a few cases are available.) Even so, by his ingenious and extensive observation of national differences, Tocqueville moved a certain distance toward ruling out certain historical factors and creating a presumption in favor of others.
Because Tocqueville relied on a complex explanatory framework with multiple causal forces and because he dealt with so few cases, the reader is necessarily left with a sense of vagueness as to the precise weight to be given certain causal forces and as to when they might be overwhelmed or deflected by other forces. One example will illustrate this problem. As we have seen, one of Tocqueville's central propositions was that democratic nations tend toward centralization of government and concentration of power. He based this assertion on a number of arguments: that the minimization of the power of individuals and groups may encourage uniform, centrally-administered laws, that citizens with individualistic values may turn over the management of affairs to the state, and so on. However, in his prime example of a democratic nation (America), he found that this relationship did not prevail. Accordingly, he ventured a number of observations about Americans - their emphasis on freedom, the strength of local townships, the importance of voluntary associations, etc. Such reasoning gives the reader pause, and leads him to consider the actual extent of a tendency for centralization within a democracy. From Tocqueville's account alone we cannot discern the relative strengths of this system of forces and counter-forcrelating to centralization. To do so we would require an array of countries defined as "democratic", in varying degrees and "centralized" in varying degrees, so that the relationship between the two conditions - and the intrusion of other conditions - could be established on a broader comparative basis.
A more subtle and complicated issue concerning causal imputation arises from the relations between Tocqueville's conceptual framework and his comparative empirical illustrations. As I "attempted to demonstrate earlier, Tocqueville's analysis rested on a semi-developed model of interacting historical causes. (A partial representation of this model is found in figure 2-1.) Furthermore, since he was utilizing a nascent theoretical system, it may be assumed that the modification of one causal relation in the system would reverberate throughout the system and affect the other causal relations. For example, if the middle classes in France had been advancing steadily on all fronts in the 18th century, and had remained tranquil, this circumstance would have decreased the reaction against governmental centralization, reduced the level of group conflict, diminished the appeal of revolutionary ideas, and so on; in short, it would have affected a whole range of what were to become causes for a revolution. The logic of Tocqueville's model, therefore, rests on the assumption that a whole cluster or pattern (rather than discrete pairs) of causal links prevail. Furthermore, any one causal link contributes to an explanation only if the others do so at the same time. For example, the unhappiness of the French bourgeoisie would not have had the same impact on French society unless all the other causal relations in the model remained intact.
Such an explanatory model calls for a certain strategy of comparative empirical analysis. Instead of seeking discrete pairs of causal connections between two different societies- basically what Tocqueville has done - it becomes essential to try to establish clusters of causal empirical relations, because only the simultaneous establishment of all the interactive causes could be said to demonstrate the workability of the model. To establish only one or two causal links would not do so, because these can be operative only in the context of the operation of the other causal links. It might be argued that Tocqueville's study of the United States and France, considered in toto, does add up to something like the comparison of a whole cluster of causal links, because with respect to almost every causal link shown in figure 2-1, he attempted to point out a consistent line of contrast between the two societies. With respect to his more ad-hoc comparisons with other societies, however, his comparative strategies are more vulnerable to criticism, because he tended to contrast France (or the United States) with another society with respect to only one causal link. Even if he could have definitively established the contrast with respect to this link, however, the comparison would have been very limited in value, because all the other necessary links could not have been considered to be simultaneously established.
This line of reasoning raises a dilemma for the comparative investigator. On the one hand, it is theoretically realistic to conceive of historical processes as complicated networks of interacting causes. To do so, however, calls for more than establishing a number of pairs of empirical associations comparatively; it calls for a strategy of establishing a whole pattern of causal regularities. Using the former approach alone would create a discrepancy between the logic of the "model" employed as the explanatory device and the logic of comparative empirical investigation. To pursue the latter strategy, however, raises even more problems. Not only does the investigator have to investigate the operation of a large number of variables - which is difficult enough with a small number of comparative cases - but he must operate under the further constraint that these variables have to be associated in a definite causal pattern in order to validate the model. This further aggravates the "many variables, small N" problem that often binders comparative analysis in any case. The student of comparative analysis, in short, must continually attempt to strike a compromise between (a) constructing complex and realistic models of the historical process which, however, cannot be validated comparatively because of the limited number of cases, and (b) positing simplified and comparatively verifiable causal relations, the causal significance of which, however, may differ among the societies in which they obtain.
A Concluding Remark
Only on the rarest occasions did Tocqueville indicate a self-conscious vision of himself as a creator of theory - indeed, he was generally hostile to conceptualizations of general laws - nor did he self-consciously examine his own empirical observations in the light of any kinds of canons of validity. Neither theorist nor methodologist, he was mainly an incisive commentator on the condition of societies as they were being destroyed and built by the great historical trends in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yet, as we have been able to discern, a conceptual organization - however incomplete - emerges from his observations and insights. In addition, his style of presenting empirical material indicates a concern both with the kinds of facts that are essential for the empirical verification of an assertion, and with how these facts should be arrayed when comparing two societies. Moreover, the structure of his ideas intimately affected his empirical procedures. His preoccupation with equality, for example, turned his attention toward questions of wealth, power, privilege, and legal immunity in France and the United States, not to other features of these societies, which might be compared and contrasted. The importance he gave to the phenomenon of "relative deprivation" focussed his attention on certain relations among 'the distribution of different kinds of rewards rather than on the patterns of absolute distribution of these rewards. And finally, because he was constrained to demonstrate the differential impact of the development of equality in two societies, his comparative method invariably took the form of attempting to associate different causes and different effects. Even when an investigator does not explicitly acknowledge the conceptual and methodological aspects of his work, these two aspects emerge and engage in continual interplay.