How did artisanal methods and practices inform the new science of politics attributed to Machiavelli and elaborated by others? Historians of science have noted how artisans’ direct observation of nature and knowledge acquired from hands-on experience informed their methods of training and habits of scientific work that became the basis for a new philosophy of science. Likewise, proponents and critics of the new political science ascribed to it characteristics similar to artisanal methods of scientific work: firsthand experience, often described as realism, derived from objective analysis stripped of illusions; and a practical aim, characterized by utilitarian action devoid of scruples. This article examines the relationship between the “art” of politics and the artisanal epistemology of science, the value of artisans’ skills and expertise in politics, and the implications of these issues for our understanding of the political ideas and actions of early modern artisans.

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