Tumults and the Freedom of a Polity in Machiavelli's Discourses

In Miroslav Vacura (ed.), Beyond the State and the Citizen. Prague, Czechia: Prague University of Economics and Business Oeconomica Publishing House. pp. 147 - 165 (2020)

Authors
Noemi Magnani
University of Hertfordshire
Abstract
In the Preface to the Discourses Machiavelli laments that the greatness of the ancients is “rather admired than imitated” by his contemporaries and expresses the belief that recurring to past examples would be most beneficial to those interested in “ordering republics, maintaining states, governing kingdoms, ordering the military and administering war, judging subjects, and increasing empire” (D I 2.2). Machiavelli is indeed persuaded that the laws governing human nature are unchangeable, and that the ancients can be imitated, since the causes for their actions and the reasons for their choices are the same that determine the conduct of the contemporaries. Thus, an analysis of Titus Livy’s work on the Roman republic might shed light on the weaknesses and strengths of existing governments and encourage men to the emulation of past greatness. More specifically, such an analysis would make clear that the greatness of Rome lied in that both the city and its citizens enjoyed a high level of freedom. In fact, the city had sovereign power over itself and other cities, rather than being ruled by others. Besides, no social group had enough power to overcome the others: people were able to foster their interests by participating in the civic life of the city and by protesting against those public decisions which they found contrary to their interests. But what did this freedom exactly consist in? In other words, does Machiavelli conceive freedom as non-interference, or rather as non-domination, by others? Moreover, does he consider participation and contestation as constitutive of liberty, or rather instrumental to it? In this paper, I will first present Philip Pettit’s account of three alternative conceptions of liberty and indicate which of them might have been endorsed by Machiavelli. I will then consider the issue of contestations and tumults and of their role within the polity. I will argue not only that Machiavelli endorses a republican view of freedom but also that, in contrast to Pettit, he maintains contestations and tumults to be instrumental to freedom, rather than constitutive of it. I will conclude by claiming that Machiavelli’s and Pettit’s different stance on the value of tumults and contestations reflects the kind of freedom as non-domination in which they are interested in. Pettit supports a more democratic form of republicanism, in which not only groups but also individuals must be able to contest given decisions. By contrast, Machiavelli endorses a republicanism in which power must be distributed among different political figures within a polity. Dissensions are seen as a means for one of these figures, i.e. the multitude, to raise its voice when its interests are damaged by public decisions. In Machiavelli’s view, the end to which a state should aim is to be great, for which it needs to be free only at the collective level. Different means might be employed in order to realise this aim. Tumults are just one of them: the one that made Rome a great city, worthy of being imitated.
Keywords Republican freedom  Machiavelli  Pettit  tumults  contestations  Roman republic
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on Amazon.com
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,714
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

¿Maquiavelo republicano?Agustín Volco - 2020 - Anales Del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofía 37 (2):225-234.
The Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli.John M. Najemy (ed.) - 2010 - Cambridge University Press.
Machiavelli's Democratic Republic.Catherine Zuckert - 2014 - History of Political Thought 35 (2):262-294.
Broader Contexts of Non-Domination: Pettit and Hegel on Freedom and Recognition.Arto Laitinen - 2015 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 18 (4):390-406.
From Fight to Debate: Machiavelli and the Revolt of the Ciompi.Martine Leibovici - 2002 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 28 (6):647-660.
Republican Freedom and the Rule of Law.Christian List - 2006 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 5 (2):201-220.
Machiavelli: Empier, Virtù and the Final Downfall.Nikola Regent - 2011 - History of Political Thought 32 (5):751-772.
Mixed Bodies, Agency and Narrative in Lucretius and Machiavelli.Sean Erwin - 2020 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 24 (2):337-355.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2021-02-03

Total views
0

Recent downloads (6 months)
0

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes