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Taming the Prince: The Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power 1st Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801845895
ISBN-10: 0801845890
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Perhaps the most penetrating study of executive power ever written... Mansfield's argument leads to a reassessment not only of executive power in general, but of the character of modern republicanism -- indeed, of modern politics altogether." -- Review of Politics

Review

"A dazzling and essential book. Mansfield brings the excitement and tension of a mystery story to this investigation of the executive -- the most important and at the same time the most banal notion of modern politics." -- Allan Bloom, University of Chicago

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 1st edition (April 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801845890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801845895
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,371,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Straussian political theorist Harvey C. Mansfield's Taming the Prince: The Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power describes the development of executive power as a kind of banalization of the "energies" of the dictator or sovereign. This is a fun but sometimes glib treatment of the connection between "executive" and "emergency" powers. In Federalist 70, Alexander Hamilton refers to the "energy in the executive" that was embodied in the Roman dictator. (Note: "energy" not "violence.") For Locke, "prerogative" was not synonymous with "privileges" that monarchs customarily enjoyed. It was extraordinary, unconstitutional but legitimacy through necessity and "public good." Hamilton moved to constitutionalize Executive energy. The anti-federalists, by contrast, took up the liberal tradition of excoriating the institution by invoking Sulla and Caesar, who broke from the classical model of dictatorship in favor of unilateral rule without limits.

The ideas of "taming" and "unleashing" in this context hold an intuitive appeal, Mansfield explains the development of executive power as a kind of banalization of the "energies" of the dictator or sovereign. Others, such as Rossiter and Schmitt, have explained emergency powers as an unleashing of these same energies. Parallels can be drawn between my account of the classical traditions of emergency powers and Mansfield's discussion of the emergence of executive power out of the same traditions. Executive power is in some sense a banalization or taming of the energies of the dictatorship; emergency powers are in some sense an unleashing of these same energies. The illiberal analogy to this same process is not "taming" but rather "concealing" the energies. This is present to an extent in Mansfield's account, perhaps through Strauss, and certainly in Schmitt.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I never feel that I fully grasp Mansfield's writing. Frankly he writes from such a lofty place that I'm inclined to feel stupid for not fully understanding what he says.
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Format: Paperback
Mansfield deals with a wide array of conceptions of executive power in this very complex yet brilliantly comprehensive examination. If you want to know why the American executive faces its current problems of ambivalence and demagoguery, read "Taming the Prince" to find the difficult theoretical answers
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Format: Paperback
The problem with Mansfield, other than his Straussian proclivity (a troubling method of political-philosophical interpretation of texts), is that when he writes, he is intentionally wordy and difficult. He acknowledged as much in his translation of Tocqueville's Democracy In America. Indeed, he believes in the Straussian notion of esoteric textual knowledge, and writes to this end: you are supposed to find the true meaning of his work below the surface of his extremely verbose, unnecessarily difficult prose.

He is naturally hailed by only a small cadre of supporters (usually neoconservative) who are on the fringes of academia for a reason. I studied at Hillsdale College under a professor who was a graduate student under Mansfield, and not one moment was spent trying to justify his methods, because, really, they can't be justified.

Although there are indeed insightful observations to be found when Mansfield writes about Machiavelli especially, the chapter on Aristotle is simply inscrutable. This book is not worth your time, and if it is required reading for a political science course, you have my sympathies.
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