Dr Nishant A.Irudayadason
Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune.
Both Machiavelli and Spinoza develop an anthropology based on the idea of desire. The essence of human nature is entirely reducible to the desire to preserve itself. Human person is therefore primarily a being of passion. It is then obvious that politics must be thought of from the natural characteristics of human person. Such a conception of human nature presupposes two main factors: the difficulty of anticipating and predicting the future consequences of human actions, and the refusal to make reason a normative principle capable of mastering passions.
Machiavelli and Spinoza are both confronted with this question: how to think of the common good from passionate logic? For them, politics does not refer to a horizon of peace, as in Aristotle for example, but to a horizon of war and conflict. Criticism of the ideology of the common good is based on the conviction that the logic of war structures relations between people, between rulers and the ruled, and between different social classes. The consequence of such a thesis is then obvious: the common good merges with the need to maintain at all costs the relationship between individual interests and collective interests. From this perspective, the desire for the common good is inseparable from the affirmation of the common power of the people.
In this respect, the constitution of the common good cannot in any way be separated from the conflicting logic that is at the centre of political life. The common good is always the product of the activity of “resistance” determined by the geometric structure of human passions. People naturally resist all forms of oppression and inequality, any attempt to reduce and limit their spaces of freedom. The philosophies of Machiavelli and Spinoza are philosophies of resistance and the absolute affirmation of life, precisely because they originate in an anthropology of desire and passion. The various forms of resistance thus become legal mechanisms, since it is by practising passionate resistance that people constantly create their rights within the state. The production of laws therefore depends on the conflicts generated by the passions of the people, and good laws are those that allow passions to express themselves freely and unimpeded.
This conception of the conflict common to Machiavelli and Spinoza gives rise to a real political ontology of multiplicity, which values the differences, exchanges and encounters that make up all the singularities of the people. Indeed, political rationality is plural, it is the expression of the multitude. The body of the multitude, by its desire for freedom, subverts and renews at every moment the political structures that tend to become oppressive and repressive; multiplicity thus presents itself as the best condition for developing the power of the collective body, to affirm the collective conatus of the political body.
People, with their desires and passions, express the true rationality of politics. Such rationality is that of democracy: democracy is a practice before it is a form of government, it is a collective movement through which people increase their power. The realization of the movement that leads to the democratic self-organization of people is based on conflicts and on the desires that structure the horizon of affirmation of singularities. In this sense, democracy is not a system of rigid and formal rules or a form of government among others, but it is on the contrary a practice specific to people who organize themselves itself to develop their own power, that is, their own freedom The political philosophies of Machiavelli and Spinoza represent, within modern thought, the most original and innovative conceptual expression of this desire for democracy, which is nothing but the affirmation of the singularities of the people who work out their freedom and power.