Originally posted: Thu, 16 Feb 2006 20:13:31
"This book resulted from the Machiavelli at 500 conference held in Manchester in May 1998," the editors explain in the introduction. This edited collection has some of the advantages and many of the disadvantages of other books resulting from such conferences. The advantages include a wide variety of disciplinary and field perspectives and a tendency toward dialogue among chapters. The disadvantages include a tendency of some of these chapters to talk past each other; to disagree on even the most simple of premises (was Machiavelli chiefly concerned with power or the republic? was he totally amoral or extremely moral? did he believe in the divine right of kings, or was that notion foreign to the Florentine republican?); and to go over the same ground in poorly coordinated ways. Again, these disadvantages are common in such collections, but they are exacerbated here because the chapters are focused on Machiavelli's impact, and that impact is hard to gauge when the contributors don't seem to agree on who Machiavelli was.
The collection is at its most schizophrenic in Beatrice Rangoni Machiavelli's chapter, in which she approvingly lists several positive interpretations of her distant relative's work, not acknowledging that these interpretations are mutually contradictory -- they can't all be true.
Some insights do emerge in the reading, particularly contextual insights about Machiavelli's time; a discussion of whether Machiavelli was poststructuralist; an examination of Machiavelli from within different ethical systems; and a contrast between Machiavelli and Marx (Machiavelli took human nature to be essentially fixed, Marx didn't). But those insights take some work to uncover. >
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