by Catherine H. Zuckert
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“Machiavelli is popularly known as a teacher of tyrants, a key proponent of the unscrupulous “Machiavellian” politics laid down in his landmark political treatise The Prince. Others cite the Discourses on Livy to argue that Machiavelli is actually a passionate advocate of republican politics who saw the need for occasional harsh measures to maintain political order. Which best characterizes the teachings of the prolific Italian philosopher? With Machiavelli’s Politics, Catherine H. Zuckert turns this question on its head with a major reinterpretation of Machiavelli’s prose works that reveals a surprisingly cohesive view of politics.
Starting with Machiavelli’s two major political works, Zuckert persuasively shows that the moral revolution Machiavelli sets out in The Prince lays the foundation for the new form of democratic republic he proposes in the Discourses. Distrusting ambitious politicians to serve the public interest of their own accord, Machiavelli sought to persuade them in The Prince that the best way to achieve their own ambitions was to secure the desires and ambitions of their subjects and fellow citizens. In the Discourses, he then describes the types of laws and institutions that would balance the conflict between the two in a way that would secure the liberty of most, if not all. In the second half of her book, Zuckert places selected later works—La Mandragola, The Art of War, The Life of Castruccio Castracani, Clizia, and Florentine Histories—under scrutiny, showing how Machiavelli further developed certain aspects of his thought in these works. In The Art of War, for example, he explains more concretely how and to what extent the principles of organization he advanced in The Prince and the Discourses ought to be applied in modern circumstances. Because human beings act primarily on passions, Machiavelli attempts to show readers what those passions are and how they can be guided to have productive rather than destructive results.
A stunning and ambitious analysis, Machiavelli’s Politics brilliantly shows how many conflicting perspectives do inform Machiavelli’s teachings, but that one needs to consider all of his works in order to understand how they cohere into a unified political view. This is a magisterial work that cannot be ignored if a comprehensive understanding of the philosopher is to be obtained.”
Review by Cary J. Nederman, Texas A&M University
by Heinrich Meier,
Robert Berman (Translator)
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“Heinrich Meier’s guiding insight in Political Philosophy and the Challenge of Revealed Religion is that philosophy must prove its right and its necessity in the face of the claim to truth and demand for obedience of its most powerful opponent, revealed religion. Philosophy must rationally justify and politically defend its free and unreserved questioning, and, in doing so, turns decisively to political philosophy.
In the first of three chapters, Meier determines four intertwined moments constituting the concept of political philosophy as an articulated and internally dynamic whole. The following two chapters develop the concept through the interpretation of two masterpieces of political philosophy that have occupied Meier’s attention for more than thirty years: Leo Strauss’s Thoughts on Machiavelli and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. Meier provides a detailed investigation of Thoughts on Machiavelli, with an appendix containing Strauss’s original manuscript headings for each of his paragraphs. Linking the problem of Socrates (the origin of political philosophy) with the problem of Machiavelli (the beginning of modern political philosophy), while placing between them the political and theological claims opposed to philosophy, Strauss’s most complex and controversial book proves to be, as Meier shows, the most astonishing treatise on the challenge of revealed religion. The final chapter, which offers a new interpretation of the Social Contract, demonstrates that Rousseau’s most famous work can be adequately understood only as a coherent political-philosophic response to theocracy in all its forms.”
ed. Timothy Fuller
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“Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince is one of the most celebrated and notorious books in the history of Western political thought. It continues to influence discussions of war and peace, the nature of politics, and the relation of private ethics to public duties. Ostensibly a sixteenth-century manual of instruction on certain aspects of princely rule and behavior, The Prince anticipates and complicates modern political and philosophical questions. What is the right order of society? Can Western politics still be the model for progress toward peace and prosperity, or does our freedom to create our individual purposes and pursuits undermine our public responsibilities? Are the characteristics of our politics markedly different, for better or for worse, than the politics of earlier eras? Machiavelli argues that there is no ideal, transcendent order to which one can conform, and that the right order is merely the one that has the capacity to persist over time. The Prince’s emphasis on the importance of an effective truth over any abstract ideal marks it as one of the first works of modern political philosophy.
Machiavelli’s Legacy situates Machiavelli in general and The Prince in particular at the birth of modernity. Joining the conversation with established Machiavelli scholars are political theorists, Americanists, and international relations scholars, ensuring a diversity of viewpoints and approaches. Each contributor elucidates different features of Machiavelli’s thinking, from his rejection of classical antiquity and Christianity, to his proposed dissolution of natural roles and hierarchies among human beings. The essays cover topics such as Machiavelli’s vision for a heaven-sent redemptive ruler of Italy, an argument that Machiavelli accomplished a profoundly democratic turn in political thought, and a tough-minded liberal critique of his realistic agenda for political life, resulting in a book that is, in effect, a spirited conversation about Machiavelli’s legacy.
Contributors: Thomas E. Cronin, David Hendrickson, Harvey Mansfield, Clifford Orwin, Arlene Saxonhouse, Maurizio Viroli, David Wootton, Catherine Zuckert.”
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by Filippo Del Lucchese
Edinburgh University Press
by Alissa M. Arditto
Cambridge University Press