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The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom Audio CD – July, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jeff Riggenbachhas narrated numerous titles for Blackstone Audio. An author, contributing editor, and producer, he has worked in radio in San Francisco for the last thirty years, earning a Golden Mike Award for journalistic excellence.

Sidney Hook is Senior Research Fel-low at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.
--This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1470889269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1470889265
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,900,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It is scandalous that this book should be out of print, for it is without a doubt the best primer on political science ever written. If you are going to read only one book on politics, this should be it. Burnham is no ideologue with an axe to grind. He merely seeks to describe how politics works in the real world of fact. In pursuit of this aim, he discusses five of the most scientifically rigorous of all political thinkers: Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, Robert Michels, and Georges Sorel. Together, these thinkers represent, according to Burnham, the Machiavellian tradition in political thought. Machiavellians, Burnham tells us, regard politics as a science devoted to describing facts as they really are, not as one may wish them to be.
In a certain sense, I can understand why this book is out of print. Realism in politics is hardly popular. What most people seek for in political theory is not reality but a rationalization for their own wishful thinking.
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Format: Paperback
One reviewer stated the fact that James Burnham's book titled THE MACHIAVELLIANS: DEFENDERS went out of print was a shame. Indeed, the fact that this book did go out of print is sad, and this reveals that shallowness of contemporary tastes. This book should be required reading for any serious student of history and political thought.

Burnham began his study with Dante (1265-1321) who was supposedly a "modern" man when in fact he was a foolish reactionary. Dante sided with feudal Germans against his fellow Italians were emerging as tradesmen, merchants, and perhaps the first capitalists. The point of this chapter reveals the futility of attempting to maintain a political and economic system that simply cannot be maintained.

Burnham's section on Machiavelli (1469-1527) is very instructive regarding Machiavelli's thinking and "moderns" who have condemned him. Machiavelli wrote THE PRINCE as a warning of how political power actually works as opposed to idealistic nonsensicle glosses of how many hopes the system works. Burnham reveals that Machiavelli warned readers that liberty does not exist because of paper constitutions or pious political platitudes. Freedom exists that there is power vs power, and the resulting compromises help liberty to emerge as a fringe benefit. Burnham warns that calls for political unity or often calls for political oppression and tyranny. Machiavelli has be a political disapproval work among the British. The reason is that Machiavelli exposed hyporcrisy platitudes for what they are, and one of Britain's major exports has been hyprocrisy.

Burnham's treatment of Mosca (1858-1941) and Parato (1841-1923) is instructive in diagnosing the political approval work "democracy.
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Format: Paperback
Burnham's "The Machiavellians" is really one of those little books that punches well above it's weight. It summarises some broad themes in political philosophy and history and provides a thoughtful synthesis. It is both a 'reference book' of sorts and a narrative.

Some comments have been raised that maybe Burnham downplayed his intellectual debt to the Polish leftist Jan Waclaw Machajski and the American 'fascist' Lawrence Dennis. Both made thoroughly 'machiavellian' critics of communist and other movements of the early 20th century, before Burnham, and Burnham would have been familiar with their work. This debate may seem a little arcane but it does reflect the intellectual forment of 1930s America.

Burnham sees his collection of "machiavellian thinkers" as forerunners of his own "managerial revolution" ideas. Before his later decades as one of the editorial team of William F Buckley's "National Review", James Burnham, was at one time America's leading Trotskyite theoretician. He even rushed to Trotsky's death bed in Mexico following the Soviets' assasination of their former military leader.

Burnham de-marxified (or more exactly de-marxist-leninist-ised) the Trotskyite critique of the Stalinist Soviet Union and broadened it into a genuine revision and amendment of marxism. In Burnham's analysis, the bourgeoisie would be replaced, not by the proletariat, but by the Managerial class of managers, bureaucrats, experts etc. Penned in the late 1930s, Burnham saw this class as already having come to power in Germany, (Soviet) Russia and (New Deal) America.

Burnham's "Managerial Revolution" in it's day was probably considered his most important, much debated and influential book.
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Format: Paperback
... Georges Sorel would be rather surprised to hear himself called a "conservative," as he was actually a radical left-wing syndicalist who advocated the use of violence to bring down capitalism, a fact to which Burnham alludes. Moreover, far from agreeing with Dante, Burnham makes mincemeat out of him.
The "Machiavellian" writers Burnham discusses span a rather diverse spectrum of views (with Machiavelli and Pareto the only ones who could be called "conservative" in any real sense). What they have in common is an objective, scientific approach to politics that avoids allowing wishful thinking, or ideas about what ought to be, to impede their discernment of what is.
I disagreed with Burnham's tendency to dismiss religious ideas as inherently irrationalist. Also, his clarification in response to Machiavelli's reputation ignores the fact that Machiavelli did, after all, offer some amoral advice, not just non-moral analysis. While some of Burnhams predictions proved correct only in the short run, his method contains within itself the the capacity for self-correction, which is part of the whole point of the book.
This book remains a must-read for all who seek to develop a scientific understanding of politics, regardless of their philosophical persuasion.
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