An Altogether New Prince Five Hundred Years Later: Bringing Machiavelli to Bear on Our Present
The assumption behind this article’s title is that Machiavelli’s thought is necessitated today, and that this necessity cannot possibly be met by approaching Machiavelli in a scholarly fashion alone – assuming, that is, that an approach which is scholarly and nothing but scholarly exists, as many scholars claim to believe. My attempt, as the title proclaims, is to ‘bring Machiavelli to bear on our present’, which means that we have to address both Machiavelli’s thought and our present. Or, to be more precise, it means that we have to address Machiavelli’s thought by putting it to work in our time, so as to try to take the measure of the predicament we face. We have an imperative need for clarity in order to come to terms with our situation, and it is precisely here that Machiavelli’s thought can be of great help – that is, so long as such thought is taken to be alive and not simply an object of historical interest or a thought from the past we condescendingly consider on account of the fact that it may still have something to tell us. If it does not seem alive to us it may well be because of us, not because of him; because we are not (politically) alive ourselves and approach these matters from the wrong angle. My suggestion is thus that perhaps a better way to approach Machiavelli lies precisely in placing him where he belongs: in the battlefront, confronting the grave problems we face.
Machiavelli; capitalism; politics; subjectivation