Strauss’s Machiavelli

Harvey C. Mansfield, "Strauss's Machiavelli," Political Theory, Nov. 1975, pp. 372-384.


Thoughts on Machiavelli is an exoteric book, that is, a book containing much that is appreciably esoteric to any ordinary reader stated m a manner either so elusive or so challenging as to cause him to give up trying
to understand it. In this it is to be distinguished from the books with which it is concerned, Machiavelli’s Prince and Discourses on Livy. These are esoteric books because almost all readers, and especially scholarly
readers, believe they understand them, and only Strauss has shown they do not. Croce’s complaint that the question of Machiavelli will perhaps never be solved, though frequently quoted, does not refer to the difficulty of understanding Machiavelli’s books, and it is quoted as often to close off an inquiry as to begin one. Strauss’s book is written, then, not to avoid disturbing the overconfident reader but to oppose him.