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Against the Despotism of a Republic: Montesquieu's Correction of Machiavelli in the Name of the Security of the Individual

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Abstract:

Montesquieu calls Machiavelli a 'great man' in his Spirit of the Laws, and commentators have demonstrated his knowledge of and indebtedness to the Florentine. Careful consideration of his treatment of Machiavelli in this work, however, suggests that Montesquieu has grave misgivings regarding Machiavelli's form of republicanism. Indeed, far from regarding Machiavelli's republicanism as an embodiment of liberty, the Frenchman suggests that it is actually despotic because it too readily sacrifices the security of the individual in the name of the state's political interest in longevity. Montesquieu indicates that one of his very purposes in the Spirit is to substitute his own middle way for the ugly extremes of Machiavelli's harsh form of republicanism.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA, Email: vickie.sullivan@tufts.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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