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Hardcover Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power Book

ISBN: 0060817178

ISBN13: 9780060817176

Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power

(Part of the Eminent Lives Series)

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

The Prince , Niccol Machiavelli's handbook on power--how to get it and how to keep it--has been enormously influential in the centuries since it was written, garnering a heady mixture of admiration, fear, and contempt. Its author, born to an established middle-class family, was no prince himself. Machiavelli (1469-1527) worked as a courtier and diplomat for the Republic of Florence and enjoyed some small fame in his time as the author of bawdy plays...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Fantastic Read on a Multifaceted Man

This read was an unbiased look at an individual with whom history has not been so kind. As the name Machiavelli is with synonymous evil and treachery, it is easy to understand that he was basing his philosophy on the times this Florentine was living in. Brutality has always been a part of war and from the point of view that Machiavelli observed the events of the time...from the defenseless Florence who had to pay mercenaries for protection against the Roman Empire, France and Spain to the over throw of power by the Medici. Although many have seen his greatest work, The Prince, as a guide book for war in it's most sinister format, this book allowed one to see the perspective that lead to such a writing. For students who may have to be introduced to Machiavelli for work on a biography or someone who is satified with an intiguing, albiet, surface reading, I highly recommend this book. History lovers will enjoy seeing this man revolving in the same world as Leonardo, Vespucci and Michelangelo~

A fine work for what it is

If you want a detailed analysis of Machiavelli and his work, this is not the book for you. If you want a brief, accessible introduction to the man and his life, then this will be a nice addition to your library. Personally, I tend to like detailed biographies that place the person in his or her context. But I also appreciate works such as this. The narrative begins with Niccolo Machiavelli, age only 29 (young for the role he would play), becoming a player in Florence's political apparatus. He was a humanist, and had a good education when young. He came from a good family, albeit one that was not wealthy. Shortly after his accession to a good post, he became Second Chancellor. As a part of his position, he also was assigned diplomatic tasks. He maintained this position until Florence was taken under the authority of the Medici family. In the process, Machiavelli lost his position (and may have been tortured in the process). The book portrays well the frustration Machiavelli felt, as he did many things to ingratiate himself with the powerful Medici family. Indeed, his famous "The Prince" was dedicated to a Medici. After, essentially, realizing that he would not soon regain his position, he began writing, whether histories, political analyses, or plays. Ironically, one of his plays was performed for the Pope (a Medici) and well appreciated by him. The book continues by depicting his life, including a last moment opportunity to play the role of diplomat--with the backing of, you guessed it, the Medici family. One thing the book does nicely, even though it is rather superficial, is to demonstrate the crazy quilt pattern of shifting alliances. On his personal life, he was quite a pain to his wife (fidelity was not an attribute he displayed) and family, being gone, while a diplomat, a great deal of the time. The last chapter does a serviceable job of putting Machiavelli in a larger context. The book is well written and well serves the purpose of an accessible, non-academic view of this famous philosopher, writer, and diplomat.

Machiavelli Light

Whether you should read this book depends on what kind of information you're looking for. The book is part of the "Eminent Lives" series, which is designed to allow well-known writers to relate the basic facts of an eminent person's life briefly together with the author's take on the eminent person's life and work. The publishers tout the series as consisting of "succinct" essay-like books intended to be "short biographies for an age short on time." No book in the series (that I have seen) has any significant scholarly apparatus. The series is aimed at readers who are new to the subjects covered. The books are similar to the serious essays you can find in magazines like the "New Yorker" but longer. This book fits the series's pattern. Author King briskly and briefly narrates the basic facts of Machiavelli's varied life as politician, official of the Florentine Republic, diplomat, playwright, poet, political theorist and writer, husband, father, and inveterate womanizer. He also makes very basic comments regarding Machiavelli's most prominent writings (such as The Prince, The Discourses, The Art of War and others). King's narrative is brisk, engaging and informative and contains a number of insights concerning Machiavelli's character and his career. King gives the reader some context by briefly outlining the violent and troubled politics of late Renaissance Italy. The book, however, has no index, few notes and a bibliography consisting of only seven titles (three of which are three volume sets). The book appears to contain little or no new research. King makes no effort at deeper analysis of Machiavelli's thought, its reception then or later or the endless wars, invasions, plots, upheavals, religious controversies and other miseries of the early 16th century. There is little guidance for further inquiry. If what you want are the basic facts of Machiavelli's life and career as related in a short and engaging narrative, this book could be a good choice. If you seek a deeper analysis of Machiavelli's significant thought or of a complex and seminal historical period this is probably not for you.

A rigorous examination of Machiavelli's "numerous antinomies"

This is one of several volumes in the HarperCollins Eminent Lives series. Each offers a concise rather than comprehensive, much less definitive biography. However, just as Al Hirschfeld's illustrations of various celebrities capture their defining physical characteristics, the authors of books in this series focus on the defining influences and developments during the lives and careers of their respective subjects. In this instance, Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (1469-1527). Obviously, this is not a definitive biography nor did Ross King intend it to be. However, for most readers, it provides about all of the information they need to understand the meaning and significance of this excerpt from the final chapter in King's biography: "The key to some of the ambiguities may lie in the nature of the man himself. Machiavelli's numerous undertakings - diplomat, playwright, poet, historian, political theorist, farmer, military engineer, militia captain - make him, like his friend Leonardo, a true Renaissance man. Yet, like Leonardo, who denounced the 'beastly madness' of war while devising ingenious and deadly weapons, Machiavelli is awash in paradoxes and inconsistencies...Probably his greatest contradiction was that he understood better than anyone else in the sixteenth century how to seize and maintain political power - and yet, deprived of power himself in 1512, he spent many long years in the political wilderness, making a series of bungling and fruitless attempts to regain his position." With remarkable precision, concision, and eloquence, King examines not only Machiavelli's life and career but also the cultural, political, and religious environment in which he was so actively involved more than 500 years ago. The Prince (or The Ruler) is Machiavelli's most famous work but was not published until four years after his death, in 1531, when Pope Clement VII granted that permission to Antonio Blado. It was published together with Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy and The History of Florence. The Art of War (1520) was the only one of Machiavelli's works to be published in his lifetime. King notes that The Prince circulated in manuscript and earned for Machiavelli a certain notoriety. "'Everyone hated him because of The Prince,' one commentator observed around the time of Machiavelli's death. 'The good thought him sinful, the wicked thought him even more wicked or more capable than themselves, so that all hated him.' This was no doubt an exaggeration: Machiavelli was far better known as a popular dramatist and controversial state functionary than as the author of a tract on statecraft. Still, in the decades that followed, the hatred did indeed begin to curdle." King points out that a well-worn edition accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to the Battle of Waterloo and Adolph Hitler kept a copy on his bedside table. Today, many people who have never read The Prince and know little (if anything) about its author do not hesitate to invoke his name -- o

What's Good Enough for Tupac Shakur Is Good Enough for Me

I was pleased to see that the redoubtable Ross King (of Brunelleschi's Dome fame) was recruited for this book. For readers unfamiliar with the "Eminent Lives" series, the idea is to pair distinguished authors with interesting subjects, the result being "short biographies perfect for an age short on time." How very 21st century. King does an excellent job of putting Niccolo Machiavelli's life and times into perspective. Machiavelli was much more of a man of action than I had realized; he interspersed his peripatetic diplomacy for Florence with an obsession with raising and training a citizen militia. And Machiavelli was hardly the black-hearted villain so often characterized. His greatest character fault may have been obsequiousness, as epitomized by his dedicating The Prince to Lorenzo Medici (a syphilitic lout who apparently never read the book at all.) If I had any cavil about Ross King's book, it is that The Prince is not analyzed in the kind of detail that I hoped it would be. (One supposes a short biography designed for an age short on time has its limitations.) I intend to now follow the example of rapper Tupac Shakur, who read The Prince while imprisoned in 1995, and subsequently gave himself the moniker "Makaveli." (How much cooler than "Puffy" is that?) Also recommended: Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (Eminent Lives)
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