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A new book asks: How was Machiavelli Machiavelli?

The term “Aurelian” has always amazed me as a curious Orwellian – a moderate example of a double coupling connecting the good author’s name to the unforgettable dyslexia. (See also “Dickensian” and “Kafkaesque”). Instead of referring to George Orwell’s apparent prose or moral clarity, “Aurelian” resembles the name of the doctor who ends up painting the terrible disease he has discovered, and has forever awakened from the tragedies he abhors.

“Machiavelli” is another acronym that changes its name, even if the Renaissance statesman and writer Niccol مك Machiavelli is still cast into the popular imagination as a naive supporter of cruel power politics. In the book “Machiavelli: The Art of Educating People What They Fear”, French historian Patrick Boucheron joined a list that can be appreciated by scientists who were trying to expose the initial stereotype of Machiavelli as a fascist enabler and tyrant tyrant.

This lively little book started out as a series of conversations for French public radio in 2016, and it provides a guide to knowledge of Machiavelli’s life and work. An accent, in Willard Wood’s translation, is a comic conspiracy. Boucheron invites us to think through how Machiavelli became synonymous with unscrupulous tyranny when the real man suffered from his republican loyalties.

Boucheron’s gentle use of the plural of the first person keeps his argument optimistic, although some English-speaking readers may be cheerful due to an occasional rampage of cultural assumptions. “We are aware of Jay Depord’s prophetic work of the 1967“ spectacle society, ”Boucheron declared. (We?)“ So we have been warned about the harmful effects of the frantic pagan goods and the feverish endorsement they generate. ”

What Boucheron is talking about is the birth of Florence Machiavelli in 1469 – a republic in her name only, “proudly swollen” and “gradually settling in the oligarchy”, where officials are elected to positions every two months, thus ensuring de facto rich families like Medicis. In 1498, after a coup and four years of rule by Dominican monk Savonarola, Machiavelli, 29, rose to a government post that placed him in charge of the foreign affairs of Florence.

Over the next 14 years, Machiavelli gained political experience and closely monitored how the Authority operated. As an envoy from a small country that met both adversaries and allies, he was sometimes subjected to contempt and humiliation, and thus learned some lessons. Boucheron makes a smart argument that travel was a “confused exercise”, allowing Machiavelli to see Florence and its place in the world again: “Isn’t this what Renaissance painters called a perspective?”

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credit…Olf Anderson

When Medicis returned in 1512, not because of popular demand but to external support, they arrested Machiavelli and imprisoned him, and they bound him with reel to force him to shout because he admitted wrong, which he did not do. A year later, Machiavelli lived in exile on his farm, where he wrote the book “Possibilities”, a book that became known as “The Prince.”

Not officially published in his lifetime, “The Prince” will become his most popular work, and is more likely to be misunderstood. It’s a paradox not lost on Machiavelli, whom Boucheron considers an unmistakable bluff. The standard reading of “The Prince” is an attempt by Machiavelli to lure himself to returning Medicis by submitting a similar job-length request to a book: an article full of hidden methods of seizing and maintaining power.

“It is safer to fear who I love.” “People must be crushed or crushed.” The new ruler must specify all the injuries he will need to inflict, “and it” should be inflicted once and for all. ” This is Machiavelli Machiavelli: immoral, collusion, cruel, and responsive to whatever the situation requires. The 16th-century Catholic Cardinal was so terrified by the “Prince” that he wrote it with “The Devil’s Finger.”

But it has always been difficult to put such literal reading together with the realities of Machiavelli’s life, and with the republican theories he developed in books such as “Discourses”. Some critics insisted that Machiavelli’s advice was so brutal and bizarre that the corrupt ruler who actually dared to put his principles into practice would make his people hate him and inevitably destroy him. This “prince” was a Trojan horse or poison pill, placed by a former political prisoner intending to bring down the Medici clan. Others still decide that Machiavelli was a satirist, while Rousseau read “The Prince” as a warning: Machiavelli, by dissecting the mechanisms of power, was telling people what to fear.

“Machiavelli is the master of disappointment,” Boucheron wrote. “For this reason, throughout history, he was a reliable ally in times of evil.” The content of the “prince” is not as much as his approach, with his “theatrical energy” and “assured and swift speed”, which provides a way of thinking about politics that is not fixed and not applicable but rather a stubborn battalion. The cultivation of republican institutions and the rule of law requires some methods; it requires others massive political survival. In a volatile world, Boucheron writes, intentions count only as much: “It allows us to see how the social energy of political formations always runs out of elaborate structures in which they were supposed to remain.”

Boucheron believes that the United States is currently grappling with historian C. C. Pocock called it the “Machiavellian moment”, when instability put the republic’s future to the test. Machiavelli’s re-emergence indicates that something has gone awfully fading. Boucheron wrote, “If we are reading it today, this means that we should be concerned.”

But just as its theme was “a taste for paradox”, Boucheron refuses to leave it there. If we are reading Machiavelli today, we may also learn something from his “clarity, the weapon of despair.” In other words, there is still some hope.

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