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- Listening Length: 9 hours and 9 minutes
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- Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
- Audible.com Release Date: May 7, 2009
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0029KM89K
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The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
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." Burnham assesses Mosca's disdain of democracy and agrees that this political approval word means nothing and is a convenient disguise to conceal desires for power and possible criminality. Mosca implied that "elites" hold or take political power in spite of "democracy." Parato bluntly states that elites are in charge of every revolution including Communist revolutions in the name of the proletariat. One commentary wrote that, in effect, Parato's views caused political conseternation especially on part of Lenin.
While Mosca and Parato dealt with elites and power, Sorel (1847-1922)dealt with political violence. Sorel did not so much preach violence as he argued that violence was a part of political reality. Burnham mentions that Sorel argued that working classes were kept in their place by appeals to peace and and end to labor strife. Yet, if the working classes did not cooperate, they were subjected to violence, and the working classes could "turn the table" by their acts of strikes and violence.
Burnham's examination of Michels (1876-1936) is well worth reading. Burnham mentions that the days of liberalism and democracy may be numbered. During and after World War I, there pious calls for "democracy." Michels' response was in effect Democracy for what? In other words if the old political labels and systems were no longer workable, there was no need to hold onto a political system that did not solve serious problems. One could ask to what purpose should democracy be upheld when there was no benefit to a bad, deceptive system.
This reviewer considers THE MACHIAVELLIANS: THE DEFENDERS OF FREEDOM Burnham's best book. Burnham later books were not as thoughtful particularly when he drifted in flights of anti-communism. In order to appreciate Burnham's better writing, one should read this book. Anyone who suffers from political naivete would be cured after a careful reading THE MACHIAVELLIANS: THE DEFENDERS OF FREEDOM.
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.
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. Today it's thesis has been so thoroughly absorbed that his analysis, once seen as radical and non-conformist, is now seen as such a commonplace and mundane observation that "everyone knows it". But the obvious was not always obvious. "Managerial Revolution" is thus delegated today to gather dust. "The Machiavellians" in contrast is perhaps a timeless book and, who knows, may ultimatelty be considered Burnham's genuine classic.
"The Machiavellians" is not just a readable survey and synopsis of the ideas of several great political philosophers, it also describes the lessons Burnham believed needed to be assimilated if liberty and human dignity are to survive in an era of great central power.