Tag: Machiavelli

Sheldon Wolin, 1922-2015

Sheldon Wolin, the political theorist, has died. In the last five years or so, we’ve seen the exit of an entire generation of scholars: David Montgomery, Carl Schorske, Peter Gay, Marshall Berman. This was the generation that taught me, sometimes literally. But Wolin’s death hits me hardest. I took two courses with him as an undergraduate: Modern Political Theory (Machiavelli to Smith) and Radical Political Thought (Paine to Foucault). The first in my freshman year, the second in my sophomore year. I would have taken more, but Wolin retired the following year. Those courses set me on my way. I would never have become a political theorist were it not for him. There will be many texts and appreciations in […]

David Ricardo: Machiavelli of the Margin

In my course this semester at the Graduate Center, “The Political Theory of Capitalism,” we’ve been exploring how some of the classics of modern political economy translate, traduce, transmit, efface, revise, and/or sublimate traditional categories of and concepts in Western political theory: consent, obedience, rule, law, and so forth. Through economic thinkers like Smith, Ricardo, Keynes, Schumpeter, Jevons, and the like, we try and read political economy as the distinctively modern idiom of political theory. In the same way that religion provided a distinctive language and vocabulary for political thought after Rome and before the Renaissance, might not economics provide modern political theory with its own distinctive idiom and form? In other words, our interest in the political moment of […]

My Dirty Little Secret: I Ride the Rails to Read

Like most academics, I read articles and books. Unlike most academics (maybe, I don’t really know), reading has become harder and harder for me. Not simply because of the distractions that come with department politics, administrative duties (come July 1, I’m chair of my department), advising grad students, and teaching. I wish it were as noble as that. No, the reason I find it so difficult to read these days, now years, is the internet. Which is why I was so relieved to read this wonderful post by Tim Parks about how difficult it is now to read. Every reader will have his or her own sense of how reading conditions have changed, but here is my own experience. Arriving […]

Machiavelli: The Novel

For all you readers, teachers, and students of Machiavelli: There’s a wonderful graphic artist up in Boston named Don MacDonald who wrote a graphic novel Machiavelli. The aim of the novel, beyond its aesthetic and literary qualities, is to bring the scholarly knowledge about Machiavelli that we in the academy have been accumulating over the years—about his republicanism, his humanism, his literary excellence—to the public. That Machiavelli was not, as a famous book would have it, a teacher of evil, that he was not especially Machiavellian, and that his teaching was not especially Machiavellian, at least as we’ve come to understand that term. Anyway, Don is now launching a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise money for the conversion of […]

The Poetics and Politics of Time

From Peter Cole’s new collection of poems, The Invention of Influence, comes this little wonder, “Of Time and Intensity”: Is Time a dispersion of intensity? For epiphanists, maybe, but not for me— for whom Time is a transposition of immensity into a lower key. The republican tradition of Machiavelli—not to mention political and cultural theories of decadence—is always worried about this problem of temporal distance from a moment of origin. Conservatism is too. Sometimes. In ten words, Cole explains why these concerns may be unfounded. Peter’s not a political poet, but I always find unanticipated resources for my own thinking in his poems. I really recommend that you buy this latest collection of his.

Protocols of Machismo, Part 2: On the Hidden Connection Between Henry Kissinger and Liza Minnelli

Yesterday, I posted Part 1 of this excerpt from Chapter 9 of The Reactionary Mind. Today, I post Part 2. • • • • •   What is it about being a great power that renders the imagining of its own demise so potent? Why, despite all the strictures about the prudent and rational use of force, are those powers so quick to resort to it? Perhaps it is because there is something deeply appealing about the idea of disaster, about manfully confronting and mastering catastrophe. For disaster and catastrophe can summon a nation, at least in theory, to plumb its deepest moral and political reserves, to have its mettle tested, on and off the battlefield. However much leaders and […]