Book Review: The Prince

This month, I’m reading a collection of explicitly political works. Hopefully each of them will touch on different political treatises, so if you don’t like one of them, click around and you’ll find something more up your alley.

The Book

The Prince reading 2021

The Prince
Author: Niccolo Macchiavelli (translator: W.K. Marriott)
1532
Project Gutenberg Link

The edition on Project Gutenberg is a much older translation than the one shown to the right or the one presented on Goodreads as the primary source of reviews for Macchiavelli’s most well-known work. If you read it, you may get a different experience than me due to which version you select.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

Review: As Reading Material

I read an English translation made in the 1800’s, which left the book in a strange realm where I couldn’t be sure how many of the odd bits were due to the original language or the translation. Sentences were long, rambling, and often difficult to parse. Even though the book was very short (more a pamphlet or booklet), it took a while to read because of the density and strange structure.

Overall, I did not find it entertaining in the least. There were short discourses on different historical events, but many were so briefly visited that it would require one sitting by a computer and looking up Italian politics of the era in order to truly understand it.

Review: As a Political Treatise

A modern reader probably looks at this and thinks “No way. This is garbage.” But that’s because we love our freedom (FREEDOM!) and don’t want it taken away. Macchiavelli acknowledges the importance of a semblance of freedom, however, which was interesting.

I personally hope that the day of monarchy is past. I personally hope that the elements of leadership described in The Prince never come to pass – because daaaang, they’re evil. The book prescribes cruelty as a method of combating disorder, of violence to end disunity. Macchiavelli’s research into successful leaders of the past was, as far as I can tell, pretty well done for a man of his time, but it cannot hold smoke in today’s world. It should be read more as an interesting look into human nature than a political premise, or as a lens with which to examine dictators.

And not examine them in a good light.

Review: Cultural Importance

The Prince is probably essential reading for those studying history, politics, or (in my case) world-building in fiction. The importance of The Prince on social sciences and history can’t really be overstated, and its influence on writings and politics since its creation is probably immeasurable. Though Macchiavelli’s broken Italy has long ago been unified, and though democratic institutions have grown more powerful since the age of enlightenment, despots still arise, and human nature has not changed.

Next week:

We’re finally done with politics month! And WHEW – after Atlas Shrugged, I needed those last two to go quick. See you next month with a new set of books!

Book Review: The Communist Manifesto

This month, I’m reading a collection of explicitly political works. Hopefully each of them will touch on different political treatises, so if you don’t like one of them, stick around for another.

The Book

The Communist Manifesto reading 2021

The Communist Manifesto
Author: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
1888
Project Gutenberg Link

What red-blooded American hasn’t heard of this… red… um…

What true American hasn’t lambasted this Pinko, commie book!? Every one of us, down to the smallest child and up to the eldest living in our nation, have been instilled with the lessons of the Cold War and the evils of COMMUNISM.

So, if pure, raw capitalism didn’t win you over last week, you’re invited to feast your traitorous eyes on this review.

NSA please don’t put me on a list.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

Review: As Reading Material

This was an extremely short read – I think one could carry this in a pocket if they wanted! While other manifestos and political premises are also short, this one is (especially for the time it was published) powerful and well-written. The first section, especially, has very persuasive language in the English version.

The section about communist history and comparison of different types of communism was a bit drier. I had to try a little harder when I didn’t recognize the names of early French communists and socialists, but it added to the pamphlet in a more academic way than a persuasive one. It showed thought rather than feeling, which offset much of the strong emotions in the rest of the book, but it also seemed slapdash and an intentional fling to make an argument that their treatise was logical as well as good-feeling. So I liked the front end better.

Review: As a Political Treatise

I am fairly familiar with 19th century developments. Politically, historically, militarily, and scientifically, the 19th century was a time of surprisingly rapid change. Though science is advancing quickly now, that quick, forward progress is expected rather than a surprise. By the time Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto, opinions on growth and human progress were undergoing mammoth shifts.

As such, I found it great that the book included information about both proletariat vs. monarchy in addition to the well-known proletariat vs. bourgeousie conflict. Though the Marxists were in an era of monarchs, they saw the tide turning toward the bourgeois and assumed their eventual, inevitable enemy.

Also interesting were two movements simultaneous with communism and that have gained more traction: feminism and decolonialism. The manifesto acknowledged the status of women and addressed the stripping of colonies’ wealth as bad. I was interested to see the authors look – even with just a glimpse – outside their own hegemony.

The biggest issue, to me, was the lack of positive suggestions for how a proletarian government would work. The pamphlet had very persuasive fear mongering about what was bad, but it was unclear on the form of an alternative. It thus seemed that it could be equally likely the authors were men trying to gain power as much as men trying to spread wealth more fairly.

Review: Cultural Importance

Communism isn’t present in the form we knew it best in the 20th century – the USSR – but this book is still very much alive in current political movements. Socialism, which has evolved from a less-violent branch of communist thought, appears in many political parties of several nations.

Though modern movements almost all reject the bloody revolution, the idea of security for all penetrates many factions (sure, you Maoists out there might believe in the bloody uprising, but then again the Iron Rice Bowl worked out well, huh?). Some of the more emotionally pleasant pieces of the Communist Manifesto are showing up in the left-leaning parties, but in America – of course – even the good ideas from the manifesto are lost behind the label of our greatest enemy: COMMUNISM.

A great book to read if you’re interested in politics or the 19th century. Not interesting for those seeking fantasy, though.

Next week:

Whew, that was a close one! Now, onward to absolute dictatorship and monarchism with Machiavelli’s The Prince!