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THE CRITICS - CRITCAL ANALYSIS
MACHIAVELLI AS POLITICAL THINKER
Supreme among the political thinkers of all time, Machiavelli, in common with the greatest politicians-who, like him, so resemble the artist in that their logic and their dogma are completely subordinate to their intuition-has what may literally be termed initial inner "illuminations," immediate, intuitive visions of events and their significance.
Federico Chabod, Machiavelli and the Renaissance, 1960
The Prince has been read as if it were a treatise on political theory, instead of being considered an impassioned answer to a particular historical situation. Admittedly, Machiavelli believed that historical situations repeat themselves, and that good solutions may also be repeated. This does not, however, alter the fact that The Prince was written at a time of grave national and personal crisis and must be understood in the light of such events.
J. Krailshmeimer, The Continental Renaissance, 1971
Machiavelli's intention was not the study or the creation of that particular science which we today call political science. It is important that we should come to his work as historians, not as theorists who hanker after synthesis. The science which he is regarded as having invented is a particular policy that he was commending for adoption by the practical statesman; or it was an element conditioning political action that he was subjecting to analysis. His teaching is a collection of concrete maxims-warnings and injunctions in regard to certain points of policy, rules of conduct for specified emergencies, and expositions of tactical moves.
Herbert Butterfield, The Statecraft of Machiavelli, 1962
A NEGATIVE VIEW OF MACHIAVELLI
Ever since Niccolo Machiavelli's day The Prince has been considered by some to be a diabolical production, and its author's name has been held synonymous with Satan (hence, according to Samuel Butler, "Old Nick"). Passages have been quoted out of context to prove their author depraved and immoral. Although such a practice is unfair and does not do justice to Machiavelli's whole thesis, it must be admitted that he exalts the state above the individual; that the most enthusiastic exponents of his theories have been Napoleon, Bismarck, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin; and that his state is exempt from the obligations of "religion" and "morality."
Buckner B. Trawick, World Literature, 1962
Machiavelli inevitably had a felt need for the formation and expression of the political will of the community. Despite the fact that he lived in and worked for one city-state while spending his leisure time pondering the fate of other city-states, Machiavelli has proven to be vitally relevant to those living in the era of the emergence and spread of the national-state system and the rich and tumultuous development of the internal political life of Western peoples; at least in part because of his insistence upon viewing the political life of a people as the highest expression of its culture.
Martin Fleisher, Machiavelli and the Nature of Political Thought, 1972
One significant way in which Machiavelli contributed to the new confidence in man was in his separation of politics from religion and his challenge to the secular authority of the Church. The human activity of politics, Machiavelli believed, can be isolated from other forms of activity and treated in its own autonomous terms. In a word politics can be divorced from theology, and government from religion. No longer is the state viewed as having a moral end or purpose. Its end is not the shaping of human souls, but the creation of conditions which would enable men to fulfill their basic desires of self-preservation, security, and happiness. Religion has the vital function of personal salvation, of serving as an important instrument of social control-a basis for civic virtue rather than moral virtue.
Anthony Parel, The Political Calculus, 1972
Machiavelli totally ignores the orthodox Christian injunction that a good ruler ought to avoid the temptations of worldly glory and wealth in order to be sure of attaining his heavenly rewards. On the contrary, it seems obvious to Machiavelli that the highest prizes for which men are bound to compete are "glory and riches"- the two finest gifts that Fortune has it in her to bestow.
Quentin Skinner, Machiavelli, 1981