I decided to brush up on my Machiavelli, which I hadn’t read for more than a decade, so I picked up a translation of his On Principalities, which we now recognize as The Prince. Good Ol’ Nick was much as I remembered him, but a few things leapt out at me, presumably because of my changed perspective.
One which caught my eye involved the balance of power between nobles and common folk (and how a prince should minuet through the particular minefield of their interactions) in which he argues essentially that the nobility desired to oppress and control the commoners and they wanted primarily to be free of oppression.
Except this isn’t really true. I immediately thought of the Puritans, who as the comic put it, “left for America in search of greater religious repression than was available in Europe at the time”. The humor is underlined by the quip’s being literally true: they wanted various governments to enforce their religious precepts on their community and were incensed when they refused.
In Machiavelli’s time, there were relatively few factions people could belong to within a political entity. Things have changed. To what degree can the success or failure of a society be linked to the number of factions the ‘common people’ divide themselves into?