Standing interpretations of the family relations depicted in Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America project onto his portrait of democracy a strong public-private dichotomy. However, de Tocqueville insists that family life is embedded in the dynamics that shape the broader society and culture. Investigating this claim yields a psychological account of the desires, fears and anxieties that haunt democratic society. These passions foment a paradoxical mix of egalitarianism and hierarchy, liberty and subjugation, within family life and beyond. De Tocqueville's fundamental thesis that democracy boasts healthy and unhealthy potentialities is better understood when the idea of family as a discrete sphere is abandoned.