It is too simple to say that Tocqueville presented equality and freedom as principles sometimes in tension with one another. His point was different. Equality was not merely a moral principle. Nor was it merely a material fact. More fundamentally, equality was a passion that gave rise to a certain dynamic in politics. Freedom, on the other hand, he portrayed as a set of skills and habits that required practice, an art that could be learned but also forgotten. The danger of democratic life, Tocqueville thought, was that the passion for equality would lead us to stop practicing the art of freedom.Toqueville believed that the art of freedom was learned by Americans in their smaller associations of New England towns, juries, and voluntary organisations. It is a romantic and repeatedly popular idea (and not only in America), that salvation comes from outside the city. It is one theme of the Old Testament, and of Islam. But is it so? Is it not the cities where cooperation is exponentially more necessary, and the balances of freedom and equality more under stress and thus strengthened?
Different arts, different stresses, different meaning of freedom and equality, perhaps.