Machiavelli Described the Methods of Tyrants

(p. C12) But anyone who observes politics, business or even the loftiest social institutions will know that the world is rife with backstabbers, hypocrites and ethical ne’er-do-wells all thriving at the highest levels—beyond the reach of law or hashtag.

. . .

Machiavelli’s gift, Mr. Boucheron argues, was “naming with precision that which was happening.” He explains the behavior of tyrants not to excuse them, but to show the rest of us what to look out for, in the clearest terms possible. Machiavelli’s “lucidity,” says Mr. Boucheron, was the “weapon of the despairing.”

Other political thinkers have read Machiavelli this way. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in “The Social Contract” that Machiavelli was not advising tyrants but “instructing the people on what they have to fear.” John Adams credited Machiavelli for helping him think through the likely threats to a young American republic.

For the full review, see:

Philip Delves Broughton. “A Poetics for Tyrants.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, January 25, 2020): C12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date January 24, 2020, and has the title “‘Machiavelli’ Review: A Poetics for Tyrants.”)

The book under review is:

Boucheron, Patrick. Machiavelli: The Art of Teaching People What to Fear. Translated by Willard Wood. New York: Other Press, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *