Monday, July 16, 2007

Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power by Ross King

I read everything that Ross King writes, so when I saw Machiavelli on the shelf at the Downers Grove Public Library, I had to check it out.

Has Machiavelli been maligned by historians?

Machiavelli was very untrustworthy as a diplomat and as a husband. He was very cynical as a writer of political philosophy and ribald plays. He was implicated but never convicted of assassination plots. Many people counted him as an enemy. Can anyone view him sympathetically? King provides evidence for the debates about the infamous Renaissance statesman who rubbed shoulders with tyrants, popes, and artists. (He even knew tyrannical popes who were art patrons.)

This book is not for gentle readers. King includes some grisly details about executions and some profane Machiavelli quotes. Of course, gentle readers are probably coming nowhere near this book anyway.

Why is Machiavelli still relevant? His book The Prince is part of a tradition of writing about government and public policy, which goes back to Thomas Aquinas. The tradition continues as nearly every key figure who leaves the U.S. government writes a book. As a diplomat, Machiavelli can easily be compared with Henry Kissinger. He's written books. His care for public opinion was much like that of Dick Cheney. He wrote a book. His insistence on military buildup resembles that of Donald Rumsfeld. Will he write a book?

Machiavelli is part of the Eminent Lives Series from Atlas Books. (Hey, editors, these books should have indexes!) It is a great addition for library collections.

King, Ross. Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power. Atlas Books, 2007. ISBN 9780060817176

15 comments:

csm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thera Fajyn said...

Probably I'm a gentle reader. I felt a little strage when I read "The Prince"...

Troy J said...

As a historian I would have to say that we sometimes state things in error, but many times certain traits of individuals are overlooked in favor of other things they have done.

Joseph Stevens said...

I'm not too big on the Machiavelli philosophy. It always amazes me how many people follow him, despite his lack of success in the end.







123TeachMe.com

D. Dischord said...

Machiavelli focused on power more than authority. His political views were more rhetoric in "The Prince" for they were his specified ideals and were often artificially set up to for a desired conclusion. Thus political, eh?

Megan said...

Hi Rick -
I'm a school librarian in New Zealand (an expat American who moved to NZ in 2005).
Yes, I saw your blog because it was listed as a Blog of Note, and I love it already.
I too have a blog and the most recent post is about attending a librarian conference in Wellington with a fellow librarian and the sort of things library geeks like us do with our free time.

elle said...

Congratulations on being named a Blog of Note!
Drop in on Brooklyn Public Library's online book discussion group @ brooklynbooktalk.blogspot.com This month's book: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

chambilkethakur said...

yes, even i love Machiavelli's political philosophies, although sound very rhetoric, but most of them were useful to kings.
even Indian Politician Kautiliya has more or less similar views but they were less brutal but much more of fantasy. Read Arthshastra by Kautilya.

lovestruck romeo said...

its nice to read ur blog in general..as i am new to this world of blogging, found it nice to read something which was exclusively dedicated to books...

T.L. Corners said...

I must say, so far, you seem to have a wide variety taste when it comes to reading. I'll definitely keep an eye on this blog since I'm always looking for something new to read. Not just new as in I don't have that particular book, but new as in I've never read a book that delves into that particular subject. I'm not gentle reader either, so I might check this book out.

http://electricbible.blogspot.com

http://controversial-blacknesss.blogspot.com

6:26 AM

bint alshamsa said...

You make this book sound quite interesting! I think I'll try and give it a read...as soon as I finish up the six or seven books that I'm currently reading right now. Ah, life! So many books, so little time!

Keith said...

What a great blog! I enjoyed your posts, and you gave me some great suggestions for books to read this summer!

sylvie d said...

Very good blog! I would like to invite your blog to our website.

sylvie
www.fuelmyblog.com

Bouncing off the Bottom said...

Hey Rick: Just found your blog of note. I do NPR book coverage as a freelancer and love to visit with anyone who talks about books and reading. I'll be back and back and back. About Machiavelli: His methods, to me, are sad because they so disconnect folks from the rest of us. Just look at Kissinger and Cheney. Not truly happy campers, I'd wager.

Atlas Shrugged said...

Interesting blog.I also like reading books,maybe You know about Ayn Rand?Please bring the contact with me on my blog:)

http://atlaszbuntowany.blogspot.com/