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Reading Machiavelli$
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John P. McCormick

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691183503

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691183503.001.0001

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Rousseau’s Repudiation of Machiavelli’s Democratic Roman Republic

Rousseau’s Repudiation of Machiavelli’s Democratic Roman Republic

(p.109) 4 Rousseau’s Repudiation of Machiavelli’s Democratic Roman Republic
Reading Machiavelli

John P. McCormick

Princeton University Press

This chapter contends that Jean-Jacques Rousseau's analysis and appropriation of the Roman Republic deliberately undermines Machiavelli's efforts to reconstruct and promote institutions that both maximize the participation of poor citizens in popular governments and facilitate their efforts to control or contain economic and political elites. Rousseau's radical revision of Machiavelli's appropriation of the ancient Roman Republic historically served to foreclose the possibility of an alternative, popularly participatory, and anti-elitist strand of modern republicanism that in subsequent centuries would have better served democratic theory and practice. Through the promulgation of sociologically anonymous principles like generality and popular sovereignty, and by confining elite accountability to elections alone, Rousseau's institutional analyses and proposals allow wealthier citizens and magistrates to dominate the politics of popular governments in surreptitious and unassailable ways.

Keywords:   Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Niccolò Machiavelli, Roman Republic, political elites, modern republicanism, popular governments

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