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Machiavellian Democracy Paperback – March 24, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"McCormick's book is something of a model for political theory that is engaged directly with problems in the world and only indirectly with texts. The aim is not so much to figure out Machiavelli, but to figure out what to think and do about a problem by drawing upon the intellectual resources to be found in Machiavelli. The result is a freshness and sensitivity to questions of institutional design that is notably lacking in, say, much of the interminable Rawlsian literature. One hopes that McCormick's approach will become the professional norm."
Adrian Vermeule, Harvard Law School, The New Republic

"Machiavellian Democracy offers a radical interpretation of Machiavelli in the service of an equally radical critique of modern aristocratic democracy. Its bracingly original arguments will be debated fruitfully by historians of political thought and democratic theorists alike."
David Armitage, Harvard University

"This is a timely and politically salutary work which interrogates the history of political theory with tenacity and insight in quest of effective remedies for acute and unmistakably contemporary political ills we direly need to overcome."
John Dunn, University of Cambridge

"John P. McCormick's Machiavellian Democracy is a remarkable and outstanding exercise in political theory. A work of impeccable scholarship, it shows a profound grasp of Machiavelli, his thought and his politics. The book is a significant contribution to contemporary civic republican thought and to democratic theory. McCormick's is a dazzling achievement: fluent and thoughtful, theoretically trenchant, penetrating and insightful in its originality and power."
Benedetto Fontana, Baruch College, City University of New York

"McCormick resourcefully mines Machiavelli's Discourses for overlooked insights into the enduring problem of political inequality. His proposals for 'institutional affirmative action for common citizens' are a deft contemporary adaptation of a rich tradition in republican thought. This is first-rate political theory, both engaged and engaging."
Larry M. Bartels, Princeton University, and author of Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age

"This is the best book on Machiavelli in decades. John McCormick has provided a bold new reading of the great master that places his arguments at the center of contemporary debates about democracy ... Machiavellian Democracy takes popular control deadly seriously, yet it avoids the standard objections to 'populism'. [This] account will be of great interest to Machiavelli scholars, democratic theorists, and partisans of democracy beyond the walls of the academy."
Ian Shapiro, Yale University, and author of The Real World of Democratic Theory

"John McCormick's Machiavellian Democracy provides a welcome challenge to a series of settled assumptions in political and constitutional scholarship. The reading offered of so controversial a thinker in the history of political thought is compelling, as are the lessons McCormick's Machiavelli offered to his readers. This is a book deserving of a wide readership."
Gregoire C. N. Webber, London School of Economics and Political Science, Modern Law Review

"John McCormick has ... offered a bold and compelling reading of an under-appreciated democratic strain in Machiavelli's thinking by highlighting the elite-controlling and citizen-empowering aspects of democratic institutions within Machiavelli's major writings. The book is an excellent work of scholarship that is sensitive to the nuances of the tradition in which Machiavelli was writing and the settled assumptions he sought to overturn."
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Book Description

Highlighting previously neglected democratic strains in Machiavelli's major writings, McCormick excavates institutions through which the common people of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance republics constrained the power of wealthy citizens and public magistrates. McCormick proposes a citizen-empowering and elite-patrolling institution to be amended to the constitutions of contemporary democracies.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (January 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521530903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521530903
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Lusvardi on April 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
John McCormick has written a paradigm-busting book on 15th Century political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli's concept of democracy. The book has gathered much attention and reviews in academic circles, where it has been received with reported hostility. But the book deserves a review on Amazon and a wider audience of "the People" (the Popolo) rather than just academic elites.

McCormick's thesis is that many other political thinkers including --James Madison, Leo Strauss, and the Cambridge School of Republicanism -- have ripped off Machiavelli's conception of good government as support for republicanism (with a small "r"). As McCormick points out Machiavelli's ideas explicitly support a populist version of democracy. Indeed, McCormick's understanding of how cunning and oppressive political elites control information, set the agenda of public opinion, twist facts to favor them, and squelch opposition by smearing them describes those who have co-opted Machiavelli's ideas for their own ends.

It is no wonder the book has been received with hostility by academics that tend be dependent on government and taxing elites for their livelihoods. Many critics say McCormick's book doesn't adequately describe such elites as Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch. But McCormick isn't referring to capitalist elites because in the 15th Century Capitalism didn't exist and corporations, defined as separate from government, didn't either. Machiavell, and McCormick, are both talking about government elites.

McCormick calls for the creation of a modern day college of Tribunes, as in ancient Rome, that represented the People.
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By Tiago Losso on September 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
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