2010/02/24

Some Random notes on Machiavelli

It is a great fun to read Machiavelli because he is not beating around the bush. Nor is he trying to cover the dark side of human nature, since politics is just an extension of human nature. Machiavelli is telling the truth, or he is telling the part of the truth which has not been exposed enough. People are shocked to read "the Prince" because we are surrounded by too much "high morality" and rosy talks. We rush to defend our vanity and refuse to recognize or openly discuss what is really going on.

Machiavelli did not write "The Prince" to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He wrote the book to impress "the magnificent Lorenzo" in order to get promoted into crucial positions. Machiavelli's hard personal experiences and unsuccessful political life also explains why he holds so much negative views. At the same time, I found that Machiavelli is not as biased as the word "Machiavellian" usually suggests. Most of the time, I found him pretty fair and neutral.

2 comments:

parqbench said...

he's definitely more complex than some might give him credit for--but i would say there's a reason why the term 'machiavellian' has such negative connotations, because there is a very slippery slope in machiavelli's arguments towards some pretty scary political programs.

if you're interested, you should check out foucault's essay on "governmentality" sometime, if you haven't already, to give a broader perspective on machiavelli's text and texts like it from that time period. contentious though his argument may be, i think at the end of the day it's still pretty convincing and hard to refute openly, since foucault's general argument i think applies in a multitude of situations.

you can find the text here, if you sign up: http://aaaaarg.org/files/textz/3938-governmentality.pdf

the teaching company also has a fun multi-part lecture series on machiavelli by a professor with a funny voice. you could say that whereas foucault's argument tends towards the philosophical and is rewarding in that respect, this lecture series really, thoroughly grounds machiavelli in a detailed history and is definitely indispensable for that reason alone. if you're interested, i have the mp3s somewhere or could get them for you.

cheers,
~alex

Zilong said...

Thanks a lot, Alex! I enjoyed your comments =)