IS HISTORY THE MEDICINE OF POLITICS?
For Machiavelli yes. But what kind exactly?
Preventive. And also orthopedic or corrective. It is definitely not for emergency: it is not useful for solving emergencies.
Oh, and something interesting: it is not an analgesic. It is the exact opposite of analgesic.
It is preventive or can guide, as when studying the system of government. In fact, this study is a condition for conquests. A good conqueror first studies how those he wants to conquer are governed.
History for Machiavelli does not numb or calm. For Machiavelli, history should wake us up, alert us.
Analgesic: calming, tranquilizing, sedative, palliative, narcotic.
History is for Machiavelli just the opposite. The story should alarm, wake up, alert. It’s like having the habit of sports, but with more urgency.
There is a type of history that Machiavelli did not know.
Machiavelli did not suffer history as propaganda. Machiavelli did not know the pseudo-history made to adorn a regime or a politician, the pseudo-history made by dyers to portray him as the fairest, the most intelligent, the most honest… And at the same time used to present his opponents as corrupt, unfair, etc.
But this type of text alarms much more and much better than history should be able to alarm us.
Propaganda texts unambiguously point to those who threaten the homeland: there can be no savior of the homeland without threats against the homeland. So the propaganda texts clearly point out what they consider to be threats and seek to ignite the public to attack them.
History cannot do this because there are no natural or eternal enemies. Of course there are enemies and know how to attack them is studied in detail. But it’s never just him, it’s never exclusively them. So when talking about enemies, History does not accuse but rather offers questions that those who study it must answer with what happens in their circumstance.
History wakes up, alerts, alarms. But not like the propaganda.
Propaganda accuses some in particular for the benefit of only one. History wants us to learn to know who is the enemy of the nation, which changes according to the circumstances.
So, in the end, propaganda is also analgesic: it doesn’t wake us up, it only makes us dream the nightmares that suit the demagogue.