If Machiavelli were here right now, I wonder how might he explain his writing of The Prince? Many such as textbooks like A History of Western Society would claim that Machiavelli is trying to provide a how-to guide on political power and that “As a good humanist, he explores the problems of human nature and concludes that human beings are selfish and out to advance their own interests.” (McKay 415)
Mary Dietz, a professor at Northwestern University, makes a more interesting claim. In her book Trapping the Prince: Machiavelli and the Politics of Deception, she exposes the contradictory ideas from Machiavelli’s other works, his life, plain common sense and shoots down the idea that The Prince was political commentary. Instead, she claims that the book was written to trick Lorenzo de Medici into following bad advice. She says, “Machiavelli could not have been writing a book for republicans, because he never intended that they read it” (Dietz 779). According to her, Machiavelli only sent his manuscript to his contact at the Medici palace, it was never meant for the public. I personally wonder how Machiavelli made a contact at the palace and how the book was spread to begin with. Wouldn’t allowing the public to read the book have been another good way of taking down the prince? I’ve heard of other scholars pondering the reasons for the book’s creation, but never like it was a conspiracy.
But watch out, Prof. Deitz, here comes Macaulay. From looking at Machiavelli’s other works, he says that even though Machiavelli shows loathing of monarchies and tyrannies, he would have grasped at any government to hold Florence together. Macaulay challenges the theory that Machiavelli did not believe what he wrote and says,“We doubt whether it would be possible to find, in all the many volumes of his compositions, a single expression indicating that dissimulation and treachery had ever struck him as discreditable.”
Although it would be more desirable to think The Prince was a trick and the monarchy is not quite so bad, the ideas Machiavelli introduces seem like sound advice. His view that a ruler must be ruthless makes sense because a good ruler would not want to appear weak to enemies.
McKay, John P., Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, and Merry E. Wieser-Hanks. A History of Western Society. 9th ed. B. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.
Dietz, Mary G. “Trapping the Prince: Machiavelli and the Politics of Deception.” American Political Science Review. 80.3 (1986): 777-799. Web. 2
Peries, J.V., ed. “Modern History Sourcebook: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859): Essay on Machiavelli, 1850.” Fordham University . Paul Halsall, 1998. Web. 13 Feb 2012. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1850Macaulay-machiavelli.asp>.