Political Science 211: Machiavelli’s Discourses
Instructor: Professor Kinch Hoekstra
In this focused reading course, we will work through the whole of Niccolò Machiavelli’s Discourses (the Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio). Among the many topics we are likely to discuss: political foundings and refoundings; elite and popular regimes; the nature of a republic; political anthropology; corruption; the political effects of Roman religion and of Christianity; the respective roles of liberty, glory, power, reputation, virtue, fortune, and prudence; historical method and the use of exempla; and the nature of the authority of the classics in the Renaissance. Machiavelli expected his readers to be familiar with Livy, as well as such classical authors as Polybius, Cicero, and Plutarch, and we will read selections along with the discourses for which they are most pertinent. We will also read a small number of other sources, including Francesco Guicciardini’s Considerations on the Discourses. Students will be expected to have read Machiavelli’s The Prince before the course begins.