Through a series of telling commentaries on early Roman history, Machiavelli shows how citizenship can work to maintain freedom, even in the face of civil strife. And yet he remains as clear-eyed a pragmatist as ever. He contrasts the public, pagan virtues of citizenship with the religious and personal standards of Christianity: when the state is in danger, the good citizen may have to stoop from the highest morality. But here Machiavelli's electrifying insight is no longer solely at the service of autocracy. For a political republic, he says, is liberty's best bastion, if only its people maintain their civic virtue. Edited with an introduction by Bernard Crick and translated by Leslie J. Walker, S.J. 542 pages, softcover.
"It is not the well-being of individuals that makes cities great, but the well-being of the community"
Few figures in intellectual history have proved as notorious and ambiguous as Niccolò Machiavelli. But while his treatise The Prince made his name synonymous with autocratic ruthlessness and cynical manipulation, The Discourses (c.1517) shows a radically different outlook on the world of politics. In this carefully argued commentary on Livy's history of republican Rome, Machiavelli proposed a system of government that would uphold civic freedom and security by instilling the virtues of active citizenship, and that would also encourage citizens to put the needs of the state above selfish, personal interests. Ambitious in scope, but also clear-eyed and pragmatic, The Discourses creates a modern theory of republic politics.
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Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a Florentine statesman who was later forced out of public life. He then devoted himself to studying and writing political philosophy, history, fiction, and drama.
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