Suvi Soininen

University of Jyväskylä, Finland 


 Machiavellism, The Emergence of Mass Democracy and the Treatise of Two Moralities




The relationship between ‘Machiavellism’ and ‘mass democracy’ is not only about the most obvious interpretation it evokes, i.e. that of dumb masses being deceived by their democratically elected rulers who have read their The Prince. Of course, this view is not to be neglected either, but in this paper I propose to complement the picture by Berlin’s (1972) interpretation that Machiavelli by no means dissociated politics from ethics, but proposed a duality of moralities, one fit for the rulers and the other for the ruled, one for the citizen and the other for the subject. By taking the Berlinian reading into account, it becomes possible to see Machiavelli(sm) as a sort of prerequisite for theorising mass democracy already in its early emergence. Both the disillusioned side of e.g. Michels, and later Ortega y Gasset etc., and the more or less self-confessed ‘modern Machiavellis’ such as Nietzsche and Shaw draw into this duality of moral values in their analyses of the relationship between governments or modern leaders and voters/masses in conditions of increased population and new technologies. They were not monistic theorists of one purpose (or value) in a way that most modern practicing ‘princes’ perhaps were (e.g. Ellul on Machiavelli and Lenin, 1964). Also proponents of ‘representative democracy’ may be seen to utilize this distinction; already de Tocqueville and Mill warned about the simple majority rule of mediocre people. It becomes thus possible to speculate how a sort of ‘Machiavellism’ lurks behind both the theories of mass democracy and representative government and manifests itself both in the fear of the rule of the mediocre/masses and alternatively in the fear of the leader/elite.