Machiavelli, Gramsci: Political Power and 21st Century Capitalism
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (1469-1527) is considered by many to be the father of modern political science and political philosophy. In his most famous work, The Prince, Machiavelli explores the nature of political power and the relationship between ruler and subjects. The Prince is often viewed as being a handbook for authoritarian rulers while others argue that Machiavelli was in fact a “republican” who inspired the later Enlightenment theorists of political democracy. Machiavelli has also been studied by a range of Marxists, most notably by Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci who wrote The Modern Prince while still a prisoner of Italy’s fascist regime. Gramsci analyzes Machiavelli in the context of his trying to understand how power is exercised and maintained under capitalism. What does Machiavelli have to offer Marxists and why is he still relevant nearly 500 years after he wrote?
This 7-week class will read Machiavelli’s The Prince along with several analyses of it starting with Gramsci but also including Marxist historian Ellen Meiksins Wood (Liberty and Property, Chapter 3 “The Renaissance City State”) and political philosopher Antionio Negri (Insurgencies, Chapter 2 “Virtue and Fortune: The Machiavellian Paradigm)
Participants should come to the first class having read Chapter 3 (The Renaissance City State) in Ellen Meiksins Wood’s Liberty and Property (available as a free PDF online).