In Redeeming "The Prince," one of the world's leading Machiavelli scholars puts forth a startling new interpretation of arguably the most influential but widely misunderstood book in the Western political tradition. Overturning popular misconceptions and challenging scholarly consensus, Maurizio Viroli also provides a fresh introduction to the work. Seen from this original perspective, five centuries after its composition, The Prince offers new insights into the nature and possibilities of political liberation.
Rather than a bible of unscrupulous politics, The Prince, Viroli argues, is actually about political redemption--a book motivated by Machiavelli's patriotic desire to see a new founding for Italy. Written in the form of an oration, following the rules of classical rhetoric, the book condenses its main message in the final section, "Exhortation to liberate Italy from the Barbarians." There Machiavelli creates the myth of a redeemer, an ideal ruler who ushers in an era of peace, freedom, and unity. Contrary to scholars who maintain that the exhortation was added later, Viroli proves that Machiavelli composed it along with the rest of the text, completing the whole by December 1513 or early 1514.
Only if we read The Prince as a theory of political redemption, Viroli contends, can we at last understand, and properly evaluate, the book's most controversial pages on political morality, as well as put to rest the cliché of Machiavelli as a "Machiavellian."
Bold, clear, and provocative, Redeeming "The Prince" should permanently change how Machiavelli and his masterpiece are understood.
Maurizio Viroli is professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University and professor of political communication at the University of Italian Switzerland in Lugano. His many books include Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli (Hill & Wang), Machiavelli's God (Princeton), and The Liberty of Servants: Berlusconi's Italy (Princeton).
"Maurizio Viroli wants us to grasp that The Prince was not the cynically devious tract it seems, but rather a patriotic appeal for a redeemer politician to arise and save Italy from foreign invaders and its own shortsighted rulers."--Michael Ignatieff, The Atlantic
"[Viroli] makes a strong argument for rethinking widely held assumptions about The Prince."--Theodore Kinni, Strategy + Business
"Whether or not they agree with Viroli, all students of Machiavelli owe him gratitude for calling our attention to an alternative way of conceiving The Prince."--Cary J. Nederman, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Maurizio Viroli is the premier scholar of Machiavelli, having extended himself more than anyone else to encompass the Italian and Anglophone scholarship on the Florentine. This is a fine and telling book."--Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University
"In this absolutely important book, Maurizio Viroli addresses the main points of controversy over Machiavelli's Prince and provides a new, global interpretation of this masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. A work of serious, original scholarship, Viroli's book also gives a clear, simple, and coherent explanation of Machiavelli's work for general readers."--Jean-Jacques Marchand, professor emeritus, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Table of Contents:
List of Figures ix
Chapter One The Prince as a Redeemer 23
Chapter Two A Realist with Imagination 66
Chapter Three A Great Oration 92
Chapter Four A Prophet of Emancipation 113
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Maurizio Viroli: