Friday, September 12, 2008

The Prince of Realpolitik

I don't know about you, but I am fascinated by Machiavelli. He lived in that mean but magical age of the mid Renaissance and in Florence, to boot. Borgias, Savonarolas, and various Medicis. There is more that went on of interest there between 1490 and 1535 than can be covered in a lifetime. (I prefer it covered by Elliot's Romola)

There is a good review of books about Machievelli in the current New Yorker. From the very get go, the review is full of topical quotes:
“Even with the most powerful army, if you want to invade a state, you need the support of the people.”
And apparently Machiavelli keeps coming back to this theme in his works. The necessity that a successful Prince has the support of his people. I gather that this means a rating of better than 30%. Oh Niccolo, where are you when we need you.

However, there was a much darker side to Niccolo, one that justified just about anything to accomplish the desired end. Surely this applies to the current bloodletting on the concourse of American politics. As the reviewer quotes:
Machiavelli did not question the use of torture for political purposes, even after he had been its victim. “When the very safety of the country depends upon the resolution to be taken,” he wrote in the “Discourses,” “no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, not of glory or of infamy, should be allowed to prevail.”
I guess it is sad to think that we have not been able to evade this terrible curse. Many would call it Realpolitik.

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