Political Theory 40 (6):736-766 (2012)

In his Florentine Histories, Machiavelli offers an ambivalent portrayal of the revolt of the textile workers in late fourteenth-century Florence, known as the tumult of the Ciompi. On the face of it, Machiavelli's depiction of the insurgent workers is not exactly flattering. Yet this picture is undermined by a firebrand speech, which Machiavelli invents and attributes to an unnamed leader of the plebeian revolt. I interpret this speech as a radical and egalitarian vector of thought opened up by Machiavelli's text. The revolutionary address reveals an untimely and not entirely self-conscious political radicalism, a plebeian politics that repudiates the logic of oligarchic privilege and is simultaneously not available for subsumption under the mantle of civic republicanism
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DOI 10.1177/0090591712460653
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