Philosophy and Social Criticism 40 (1):43-68 (2014)

The author argues that the interpretation of Machiavelli’s political theory is to be prominently a republican one, escaping its commonly simplified and stereotypical interpretations, which reduce his theoretical legacy to so-called ‘Machiavellianism’. The article claims that while elements of ‘Machiavellianism’ do exist in all of his books (especially in The Prince), they do not define the core line and purpose of Machiavelli’s political theory. This article presents how Machiavelli followed the legacy of republican Rome and of the medieval and Renaissance city-republics of Italy (including Florence) in developing his republican conception. Furthermore, it is argued that the theory of the humours – used as a basis of his interpretation of republican tradition – resulted in the anticipation of modern liberal republicanism in Machiavelli’s legacy. His statements that conflicts of interests among different humours/classes/estates were not only unavoidable, but were also useful in enacting good laws, did anticipate modern pluralism. The author argues that the theory of the humours served Machiavelli as the core background he used in differentiating the main forms of political orders: monarchy/principality, republic and lizenzia (institutionally, a republic, but effectively, an imbalanced quasi-aristocratic rule). The criterion Machiavelli used was the quality of relations existent among those humours, in the sense that only the republic secured the satisfaction of the needs and interests of all humours, and insofar represented a well-balanced, healthy body politic. Machiavelli’s intention was to offer ‘practical lessons from the study of history’ through comparison of the ‘ancient events’ of the Roman republic with the ‘modern events’ of the existing lizenzia in Florence, so that a real republican order be (re)established in the Florence of his days
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DOI 10.1177/0191453713513786
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Machiavelli.Quentin Skinner - 1992 - In Great Political Thinkers. Oxford University Press.

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