The conference will focus on four themes: Situating Machiavelli within the history of political thought; the tragic view of politics and conflict in the The Prince; the relation between The Prince and the Discourses and the foundation of good orders; and the assessment of the meaning of political liberty and power in the study of Machiavelli's ideas.

Location: Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University
1161 Amsterdam Ave (just south of 118th St)  |  New York, NY.

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Luca Baccelli Universita' di Camerino

Political Imagination, Conflict and Democracy: Machiavelli's Republican Realism

ABSTRACT: Machiavelli's critique of those writers who "have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen" is well known. And the interpretation of Machiavelli as a theoretician of political science, based on "objective" laws, rooted in an ancient tradition, is still influential, despite the awesome revival of Machiavelli as a republican thinker, retriever of the "ancient prudence." Machiavelli theorizes the relative autonomy of political system but, far of being "free of value judgments," he assumes a partisan point of view, i.e. that of the people. And his realistic view of politics is inspired by well-defined values; it focuses on the inclusion of the people into citizenship via political conflict, in the framework of an original conception of the rule of law. In 1513 Machiavelli writes The Prince while experiencing a triple crisis – of Italian politics, of Florentine Republic, of his own life. In proposing a creative solution to such a crisis his political realism performs a surplus of political imagination.

BIO: Luca Baccelli (Lucca, 1960) is Full Professor of Philosophy of Law at the University of Camerino (Italy) and Visiting Scholar in the New School of Social Research, New York. Among his publications: Praxis e poiesis nella filosofia politica moderna, Milan: Angeli, 1991; Il particolarismo dei diritti, Rome: Carocci, 1999; Critica del repubblicanesimo, Rome-Bari: Laterza, 2003; I diritti dei popoli, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2009.

Jérémie Barthas Queen Mary, University of London

'To Enjoy the Present Advantage of Being Able to Despoil the People': Financial Order and Political Disorder in Machiavelli

ABSTRACT: Did Machiavelli care about the question of the social basis of political power? Some say no, and they consider this a major weakness of his political theory. Others deem this question anachronistic and of little relevance to a theorist of a pre-industrial society. In recent years, however, Machiavelli scholarship has paid increasing attention to Machiavelli's theory of social conflict, and to his concept of society as divided into classes. What was once seen as anachronistic has now found textual foundations, even in The Prince. This has raised new questions concerning the place of economics in his thought, even if he did not conceive of economics as a specific sphere. New documents from the archives of Florence demonstrate the symptomatic importance of the financial system for understanding the political history of the Florentine Republic's Grand Council (1494-1512), in which Machiavelli served for fourteen years. Through the historical background of the financial crisis around 1500, there appears to be a link, in Machiavelli's work, between a project of military reform to establish the principle of the 'people in arms', and the search for a solution to the social and political conflict fuelled by the financial organization of the territorial state. This paper will explore some of these findings.

BIO: Jérémie Barthas is Marie Curie Senior Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of L'argent n'est pas le nerf de la guerre. Essai sur une prétendue erreur de Machiavel, école française de Rome 2011. His work on Machiavelli includes "Machiavelli in Political Thought from the Age of Revolutions to the Present" in The Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli, ed. J.M. Najemy (CUP, 2010).

Erica Benner Yale University

The Necessity to Be Not-Good: Machiavelli's Realism and Foreign Relations

ABSTRACT: Few scholars today deny that Machiavelli is a political 'realist' who sees self-preservation as a basic good, and military and political power as essential means to security. But what forms should this power take, how should it be acquired, and how much room does its pursuit leave for moral considerations? This paper examines a deep ambiguity in Machiavelli's realism, focusing on his discussions of foreign policy. One strand is robustly unilateralist, and holds that it is sometimes necessary to set aside moral scruples. Another stresses the need for collaboration and respect for others' interests as the surest route to power and safety. How are these different strands related? Does Machiavelli say clearly when necessità requires us to set aside considerations of justice, and when it is better to respect them?

BIO: Erica Benner is Fellow in Political Philosophy at Yale. She has written widely on Machiavelli, and on the ethics of self-determination. Her books include Really Existing Nationalisms (Oxford 1995), Machiavelli's Ethics (Princeton 2009), and Machiavelli's Prince: A New Reading (Oxford 2013). She is writing a new book on Machiavelli, Be Like the Fox (Penguin), and a book on Thucydides.

Thomas Berns Université Libre de Bruxelles

The Expanding Character of Liberty in Machiavelli

ABSTRACT: "The radical specificity of political citizenship in Machiavelli lies ultimately in the fact that it takes into account the essentially expanding character of liberty. The picture that Machiavelli draws of the political practices in the Principe and of the models of citizenship in the first chapters of the Discorsi, insofar as it displays challenging figures to traditional approaches (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine), is all about their respective capacities to shed light on this expanding nature of liberty."

BIO: Thomas Berns is Professor of Political Philosophy and Philosophy of the Renaissance at Université Libre de Bruxelles and the head of the Research Centre of Philosophy. ( He is the author of Violence de la loi à la Renaissance. L'originaire du politique chez Machiavel et Montaigne (Kimé, 2000) and Gouverner sans gouverner. Une archéologie politique de la statistique (PUF, 2009). He is now working on the new forms of normativity and the question of war in philosophy.

Philip C. Bobbit Columbia University

The Prince and the Discourses: One Masterpiece

ABSTRACT: Though Niccolo Machiavelli ranks as perhaps the greatest political philosopher since Aristotle, there is little consensus on what he actually said. Was he an advocate of autocracy or a rights-respecting republican? Was he an amoralist or a rigorous ethicist? Did he believe that men of sufficient virtù could master their fates or that they were doomed by the caprices of Fortuna? Despite this disagreement, most commentators can at least agree on several general propositions about his most well-known work, The Prince. Two of these propositions are that The Prince is a "mirror book," exemplary of a familiar genre intended to instruct princes on their correct behavior; and that it is inconsistent with—or at least discordant with—Machiavelli's other principal work, The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy. Arguing that Machiavelli is principally a constitutionalist, my paper casts doubt on these generally accepted propositions which, ironically, are the source of many disagreements as to Machiavelli's intentions.

BIO: Philip Bobbitt is the Herbert Wechsler Professor of Federal Jurisprudence at Columbia University. He is the author of books on the US constitution, US nuclear strategy, and histories of diplomacy, warfare, and the evolution of the State. His most recent book is The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made.

Jo Ann Cavallo Columbia University

On Political Power and Personal Liberty in The Prince and Discourses

ABSTRACT: While The Prince addresses the single power-seeker who aspires to rule a principality and The Discourses speak to the few deemed worthy of governing a republic, both texts also indirectly take into consideration those who want to be free of the harmful effects of the State, regardless of the form it may take. Leaving aside, therefore, the structural contrast between principalities and republics as well as the social division between the aristocracy and the popolo, the starting point of this paper is Machiavelli's most basic grouping of humanity into those who crave power over others and those who desire not to be oppressed. What do Machiavelli's ideas about state formation, the role of the ruler, conspiracies, war and citizen armies, taxes, fortresses, and property rights have to contribute to the perennial question of political power versus personal liberty?

BIO: Jo Ann Cavallo (Ph.D., Yale, 1987) is Professor of Italian at Columbia University. Her publications focus primarily on Italian Renaissance literature (most recently, The World beyond Europe in the Romance Epics of Boiardo and Ariosto [2013]), including Machiavelli's opus ("Machiavelli and Women," Seeking Real Truths: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Machiavelli [2007]).

Filippo Del Lucchese Brunel University

Machiavelli and Constituent Power: The Revolutionary Foundation of Modern Political Thought

ABSTRACT: Twentieth-century historiography has constantly questioned Machiavelli's 'modernity.' Nostalgic for the good classicality, conservative scholars have insisted on Machiavelli's 'bad' modernity and, more recently, on the fearful and terrible character of Machiavelli as a forerunner of the modern concept of executive power. In this paper I will argue that the fundamental core of Machiavelli's notion of power has to be referred not so much to the executive, but rather to the constituent power. I will discuss the constituent dimension of the people's power in light of Machiavelli's theory of conflict. This perspective not only clarifies Machiavelli's theory, but also enriches the legal and political concept of constituent power. Constituent power's origin, normally associated with modern Constitutionalism, can in fact be traced back to the end of the Renaissance crisis.

BIO: Filippo Del Lucchese is Lecturer in History of Political Thought at Brunel University - London, Senior Research Associate, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, and chair at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. His research interests are in the early modern period (from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment), history of philosophy and Marxism.

Benedetto Fontana Baruch College, CUNY

Machiavelli and the Gracchi: On the Relation Between Republican Liberty and Class Conflict

ABSTRACT: Machiavelli identifies two major kinds of conflict. The first is positive and conducive to a republic's viability and resilience. It describes the reciprocal and intimate relationship between republican liberty and competition and conflict. The second is negative and noxious, and embodies the strife and factionalism that undermined and destabilized the republic. The distinction between the two kinds of conflict emerges with the Gracchi and their attempts to resolve the immiseration of the Italian countryside. The first type is transformed into the second as the land question and agrarian reform increasingly and progressively generate factional and sectarian conflict among the ruling elite. This paper investigates Machiavelli's interpretation of the Land Laws in Rome, and his understanding of the role the Gracchi played in the factionalism and strife that led to the disintegration of the republic. It discusses Machiavelli's requisites for republican liberty and republican politics--socio-political equality, subordination of the legions to republican institutions, and open, public competition within a clearly defined and delimited public space--and relates them to the social and political initiatives of the Gracchi.

BIO: Benedetto Fontana specializes in ancient, medieval, and modern political theory, as well as in contemporary political and social thought. He is the author of Hegemony and Power: On the Relation Between Gramsci and Machiavelli (Minnesota Press, 1993), and the coeditor of Talking Democracy: Historical Perspectives on Rhetoric and Democracy (Penn State Press, 2005). He is a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians.

Marie Gaille Paris-CNRS

Citizenship and the Desire for Freedom. What Kind of Democrat is Machiavelli?

ABSTRACT: In the conclusion of my book Liberté et conflit civil. La politique machiavélienne entre histoire et médecine (2004) I advocated the idea that Machiavelli conveyed to us the necessity of thinking both the conflit and the «ordine», without giving up one for the other. I also defended the thesis of an indirect use of Machiavelli for contemporary political thinking. In the present paper, I will first propose a reflection on this indirect way of addressing these crucial political questions and derive from it a methodology to interpret his writings. This will lead me to pay more attention to the idea of imperfect or unending democracy formulated by H. van Gusteren, than I did in the work of 2004. I will first focus on uprising as an essential dimension of political action. Then, I will dwell on the idea of citizenship, as displayed in Machiavelli's thought, and its ambiguous implications regarding the quest for freedom.

BIO: Marie Gaille is a Senior Researcher in philosophy in SPHERE (CNRS-University of Paris Diderot). Her work in political philosophy focuses on the process of democratization, health and body uses as social issues and on the relationship between philosophy, anthropology and medicine.

Marco Geuna Università degli Studi di Milano

Extraordinary Accidents in the Life of Republics: Machiavelli and Dictatorial Authority

Machiavelli is the first modern political thinker to pay significant attention to the magistracy of dictatorship. "Dictatorial authority," as he puts it, is fundamental to the survival and prosperity of republics: it is the magistracy to which republics turn in moments of emergency; it is the "ordinary way" which they use to face up to "extraordinary accidents."
Machiavelli's gaze, as always, is cast both on the Ancient and the Modern world: although he concentrates on the Roman magistracy, he also pays attention to magistracies of the modern world that were in some way similar, such as the Council of Ten in the Republic of Venice.
In my paper, I will attempt to reconstruct the essential points of Machiavelli's discussion on dictatorship. In the concluding remarks, I will tackle the more general question of the relationship between politics and law in his thought as a whole.

Marco Geuna is Associate Professor of History of Political Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, University of Milan. His research focuses on modern and contemporary theories of the republican tradition. He is the Italian translator and editor of works by Philip Pettit and Quentin Skinner.

Giovanni Giorgini University of Bologna

Machiavelli on Good and Evil: The Problem of Dirty Hands Revisited

ABSTRACT: The problem of Machiavelli's intention in writing The Prince is at the heart of the interpretation of this work, which turns 500 years old this year and which allegedly started political modernity. That is to say a new era in which politics is separated, or autonomous, from the moral and religious realm and answers only to considerations of effectiveness in a consequentialist perspective. I shall maintain that Machiavelli's main purpose was that of educating a new prince according to what he had learnt (through his readings and his 15 years in office) so that the prince could meet the extraordinary challenges of the age. In this path of Bildung the first and most important lesson is that the State (which Machiavelli always sees as the motherland, in a patriotic, surely not detached, way) must be saved and preserved at all costs. This is not just a theoretical consideration because the dire situation of the age made it a real and present possibility. In this perspective the problem of 'dirty hands' can be seen as the problem of how to educate a prince who is good (committed to his State and citizens) but who also knows how to use evil means in order to achieve a purpose which constitutes the overriding good; the chief question in this educational process is how a good human being can remain such even if he commits evil deeds for his country. The answer, we will find, is surprisingly Aristotelian.

BIO: Giovanni Giorgini (Bologna, 1959) is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Bologna, Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, Life Member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, and member and Past President of the Collegium Politicum. He is the author of La città e il tiranno. Il concetto di tirannide nella Grecia del VII-IV secolo a.C. (1993); Liberalismi eretici (1999); and I doni di Pandora. Filosofia, politica e storia nella Grecia antica (2002).

Harvey Mansfield Harvard University

Machiavelli's Verità Effettuale

ABSTRACT: My contribution will focus on the phrase verità effettuale featured in the first paragraph of Chapter 15 of The Prince. Machiavelli concentrates the power of this phrase by using it just this once in all his writings. Indeed, Machiavelli scholars have been unable to find any other use of the term in the Italian Renaissance among humanist authors, and I am not aware of any earlier use of it. With this new phrase, he says he departs from the orders of others. In it are contained new "truth" in philosophy and new "effectiveness" in politics, together elevating politics and bringing philosophy down to earth. I shall set forth an argument that Machiavelli laid the foundation of modern philosophy and modern science by discovering what we today call "fact," and thereby created what is today broadly called "the modern world."

BIO: Harvey C. Mansfield, '53, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard, studies and teaches political philosophy. He has written on Edmund Burke and the nature of political parties, on Machiavelli and the invention of indirect government, in defense of a defensible liberalism, and in favor of a constitutional American political science. He has also written on the discovery and development of the theory of executive power, and is a translator of Machiavelli and Tocqueville.

John McCormick University of Chicago

The Tyrant as Republican Reformer in Machiavelli's Discourses

ABSTRACT: According to conventional wisdom, Machiavelli's Il Principe offers political advice to princes, even tyrants, while the Florentine's Discorsi, guides a republican audience -free citizens, civic leaders and humanist literati- on the proper ways of establishing, maintaining and enhancing the liberty of republics. This paper challenges this widespread notion by delineating the advice that Machiavelli proffers to tyrants within the Discourses. Machiavelli insists -sometimes adamantly, sometimes through insinuation- that tyrannical means are necessary to reform republics that have become corrupt, as all republics inevitably will through the proliferation of economic and political inequality. Moreover, he argues, such reforms may entail the usurpation of republican forms by a prince who behaves very much like the Greek tyrants he discusses in The Prince, most notably, Hiero, Agathocles and Nabis. The proper means by which a prudent tyrant, however, usurps a republic - by crushing the nobility, redistributing their wealth to the people, and greatly expanding the latter's role in military affairs - lay the groundwork, I will show, for the restitution of newly invigorated republican rule in the near or not too distant future.

BIO: John P. McCormick is professor of political science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Machiavellian Democracy (Cambridge 2011); Carl Schmitt's Critique of Liberalism: Against Politics as Technology (Cambridge 1997); Weber, Habermas and Transformations of the European State (Cambridge 2006); and is presently working on a book titled, "The People's Princes: Machiavelli, Leadership and Liberty."

Pasquale Pasquino New York University

Machiavelli's Prince and the Principality by Acquisition

ABSTRACT: It is well known that M wrote The Prince to get a job with the Medici family once they were back in power in Florence. But it has long been disputed what the object of the manuscript De principatibus was, a text that Machiavelli stubbornly refused to publish until his death. The unification of Italy or a new philosophy of the mirror of the prince (Fürstenspiegel)? A philological analysis will show that the object is primarily to show M's skillfulness as political counselor of the prince - the job he was trying to get. The booklet presents indeed a typology of principalities, focusing on the government of the most difficult case (the word difficoltà is somehow the signature of the first chapters): the principato nuovo (the new principality, in the Hobbesian language, the commonwealth by acquisition).

BIO: Pasquale Pasquino is Professor in Politics at NYU and Senior research Fellow at the CNRS, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has published on the history of constitutional and political theory. His research concerns presently constitutional courts in Europe and the doctrine of constituent power.

Paul A. Rahe Hillsdale College

The Ecclesiastical Principality

ABSTRACT: The eleventh chapter Machiavelli's Prince is generally ignored. This is to be expected - for its author encourages us to pass it by. In the first chapter of the work, when he lays out in brief the typology of political forms that he will analyze in the chapters that follow, he omits the ecclesiastical principality.
I want to suggest what may seem counter-intuitive: that Machiavelli, who is given to mischief, is by this ostentatious omission drawing our attention to the ecclesiastical principality. Chapter Eleven is after all the concluding chapter in the first part of his little book; and, in treating ecclesiastical principalities as a political form, requiring a rational analysis, he is doing something extraordinary. Moreover, in the chapter, he insiststhat "only these principalities are secure and prosperous." If so, understanding them may be central to Machiavelli's purpose in writing the book that he entitled De principatibus.

BIO: Paul A. Rahe holds the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College and is the author of Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution (1992) and Against Throne and Altar: Machiavelli and Political Theory under the English Republic (2008).

Quentin Skinner Queen Mary, University of London

Machiavelli on Describing the Vices as Virtues

ABSTRACT: One of Machiavelli's aims in Il principe is to persuade us that the virtuoso prince should follow the virtues so far as possible, but should be ready to abandon them when this appears necessary for the maintenance of il suo stato. This is certainly what Machiavelli says about the virtue of justice in chapter 18. But if we turn to his examination of the so-called 'princely' virtues in chapters 16 and 17, we encounter a further and different point. He complains that actions are regularly praised as instances of liberality and clemency when they are not really instances of these virtues. My paper will examine Machiavelli's exposure of the trick of rhetorical redescription (known to the rhetoricians as paradiastole) and will consider his attitude towards it.

BIO: Quentin Skinner is the Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary University of London, and is the author of numerous works on Renaissance political theory, including The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978), Machiavelli (1981), Renaissance Virtues (2002) and Ambrogio Lorenzetti: l'artiste en philosophie politique (2003).