Wily Elites and Spirited Peoples in Machiavelli's Republicanism

Wily Elites and Spirited Peoples in Machiavelli's Republicanism

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Niccolo Machiavelli, though best known as a teacher of princes, is also a teacher of republics. In his Discourses on Livy, he argues that republican liberty depends upon a contentious mixture of elitism and populism. Only the elite's wily pursuit of domination, combined with the people's spirited resistance to such domination, can produce that compromise between servitude and license known as liberty. The task of the founder and the statesman is to construct and maintain the appropriate "orders and modes" within which each party to the conflict can make its appropriate contribution. The elite, at its best, contributes prudence, military virtue, and the capacity to innovate, while the people contributes moral and political stability.

David Levy explains and defends Machiavelli's conception of liberty as conflict, and then uses that conception as the lens through which to understand his views on religion, war and imperialism, goodness and corruption, and the relation between republics and princes. Also discussed is Machiavelli's own kind of wiliness: his artful and often ironic mode of writing. Levy shows that Machiavelli's republican teaching as a whole remains persuasive today, and deserves careful consideration by all those concerned with the survival and the success of liberty.

This book will be of interest both to beginning and more advanced students of Machiavelli, as well as to students of modern republicanism and of the history of ideas.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 170 pages
  • 152 x 227 x 12mm | 259g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • UK ed.
  • 0739197010
  • 9780739197011

Table of contents

Introduction: Returning to Machiavelli

Chapter 1: From Class Conflict, Liberty
Chapter 2: War, Empire and Democracy
Chapter 3: Corruption: Its Causes, Uses and Remedies
Chapter 4: The Princely Republic
Chapter 5: Conclusion

Appendix: Machiavelli and the Question of Perennial Problems
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Review quote

David Levy's Wily Elites and Spirited Peoples offers fresh insight into Machiavelli's singular conception of the few and the many, and the respective roles that elites and the people should play in the politics of republics. Levy manages to stay true to Machiavelli's writings and to draw insights from them for contemporary liberal democracy. -- John P. McCormick, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago
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About David N. Levy

David N. Levy is lecturer in philosophy at John Cabot University.
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