CRF Blog

Was Machiavelli really not Machiavellian?

by Bill Hayes

In Was Machiavelli really not Machiavellian?, the Guardian reviews Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli In His World by Erica Benner.

It was inevitable, then, that someone would come up with a book arguing that Machiavelli was not Machiavellian. In one sense, to be sure, we have known this all along. The renowned 16th-century diplomat and politician was a staunch republican and reformer who denounced corruption in high places and detested tyrants, which was not the best recipe for a quiet life in the Florence of the Medici family. As a humanist in the mould of Livy and Cicero, he urged his fellow citizens to question conventional wisdom and take nothing on authority. Rulers were not to be deceived by false glory, and high birth was by no means a guarantee of virtue. The public good took precedence over private interests and political sectarianism. You should treat your enemies justly, uphold the rule of law and show respect to others, if only to win them over to your side. [more]

For a related free classroom lesson, see Machiavelli and The Prince from our Bill of Rights in Action Archive.