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Was The Prince a satire?

I knew that Machiavelli had also written The Discourses on Livy which tries to be a manual on running republics, as well as an argument for their superiority to principalities, which by itself raises a question about The Prince. But before that, Wikipedia says:

"Concerning the differences and similarities in Machiavelli's advice to ruthless and tyrannical princes in The Prince and his more republican exhortations in Discourses on Livy, many have concluded that The Prince, although written as advice for a monarchical prince, contains arguments for the superiority of republican regimes, similar to those found in the Discourses. In the 18th century the work was even called a satire, for example by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[8][9] More recently, commentators such as Leo Strauss and Harvey Mansfield have agreed that the Prince can be read as having a deliberate comical irony.[10]

Other interpretations include for example that of Antonio Gramsci, who argued that Machiavelli's audience for this work was not even the ruling class but the common people because the rulers already knew these methods through their education."

So, not a user manual for princes, but a warning manual for citizens, about how princes would manipulate them?


As for the Discourses, we have:

"Machiavelli presents it as a series of lessons on how a republic should be started and structured. It is a larger work than the Prince, and while it more openly explains the advantages of republics, it also contains many similar themes. Commentators disagree about how much the two works agree with each other, frequently referring to leaders of democracies as "princes". It includes early versions of the concept of checks and balances, and asserts the superiority of a republic over a principality. It became one of the central texts of republicanism, and has often been argued to be a superior work to the Prince.

"Doubtless these means [of attaining power] are cruel and destructive of all civilized life, and neither Christian, nor even human, and should be avoided by every one. In fact, the life of a private citizen would be preferable to that of a king at the expense of the ruin of so many human beings." Bk I, Ch XXVI
"Now, in a well-ordered republic, it should never be necessary to resort to extra-constitutional measures. ..." Bk I, Ch XXXIV
"... the governments of the people are better than those of princes." Book I, Chapter LVIII
"... if we compare the faults of a people with those of princes, as well as their respective good qualities, we shall find the people vastly superior in all that is good and glorious". Book I, Chapter LVIII"

Further down: "J.G.A. Pocock (1975) saw him as a major source of the republicanism that spread throughout England and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries and Leo Strauss (1958), whose view of Machiavelli is quite different in many ways, agreed about Machiavelli's influence on republicanism"

"In his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States, John Adams praised Machiavelli, with Algernon Sidney and Montesquieu, as a philosophic defender of mixed government. For Adams, Machiavelli restored empirical reason to politics, while his analysis of factions was commendable"

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Damien Sullivan
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