Lana Stein is emeritus professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is the author of several books and journal articles about urban politics, political behavior and bureaucracy.
American governmental structure began to take on its present form during the Progressive Reform Era, 1900-1915. Progressives decried the waste and corruption in government at all levels and desired professional administration based on fixed principles.
In common parlance, use of the adjective “Machiavellian” implies a ruthless practice of politics where ends justify means and maintenance of power is the ultimate goal. Yet, a careful reading of “The Prince” and “The Discourses” leads to a more nuanced view of this political philosopher.
He certainly reflected 15th century Italy, populated by city-states that competed with each other in many realms. Interestingly, Machiavelli’s ruminations on human nature and governance can help to illuminate the peculiar politics of early 21st century America, nationally and locally.