Machiavelli on the art of the state and the true way
Sayer, David Andrew
MetadataShow full item record
"This monograph reopens a central and contentious question about Machiavelli's thought: how does he understand the relation between morality and politics? In the twentieth century, three of the most influential answers were those of Benedetto Croce, Leo Strauss and Isaiah Berlin. In 1925, Croce argued that Machiavelli values morality and thus discovered the ""autonomy of politics"" with bitterness. In 1958, Strauss argued that Machiavelli is both ""an evil man"" and ""a teacher of evil."" And in 1972, Berlin argued that Machiavelli's political philosophy is moral-but based on a ""pagan morality."" My dissertation reexamines the question of Machiavelli through a close reading that analyzes his political vision in both its historical and intellectual context. I argue that Machiavelli esteems the moral virtues but insists that to be a successful ruler one must know how to act against them, when necessary. Throughout his writings, he takes for granted that the state's security is a necessity without which virtue, honour and greatness are themselves not possible; thus he argues that the necessity of security overrides moral considerations when the two come into conflict. Further, since expansion increases security, expansion itself is necessary. This is a far-reaching argument. First, it means that the struggle for power is inherent in affairs of state, not only due to avarice and ambition but also due to the desire for security itself; second, since expansion is necessary for security, the argument that rulers may violate moral norms for the end of security extends to expansion. At the same time, Machiavelli' s realist mode of analysis also puts limits on ambition, avarice and expansion, though they derive largely from a prudent understanding of necessity, the limits of power and the indignation aroused by injustice. When it comes to the art of the state, for Machiavelli, the true way is to be in accord with necessity. Necessity resolves the conflict between politics and morality and subordinates the orthodox notion of the true way-whether associated with Christianity, the middle way or both-to the true way revealed by necessity."