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The dramatic, myth-shattering story of how Machiavelli—arguably the most misunderstood thinker of all time—fought to change his corrupt world. Since the publication of The Prince five centuries ago, Machiavelli has been associated with political amorality. But that characterization is unfair. In Be Like the Fox, Erica Benner sets the record straight: far from the ruthless “Machiavellian” henchman that people think he was, Machiavelli emerges here as a profound ethical thinker who fought to uphold high moral standards and restore the democratic freedoms of his beloved Florence. Shaking the dust from history, Benner masterfully interweaves Machiavelli’s words with those of his friends and enemies, giving us a biography with all the energy of fiction. Through dialogues and diaries, we witness dramatic episodes, including Savonarola’s fiery sermons against the elite in Florence’s piazza, Machiavelli’s secret negotiations with Caterina Sforza at the court of Forlí, and the Florentines’ frantic preparations to resist Pope Julius’s plan to over-throw their Republic. Benner relates how Machiavelli rose as an advisor in the Florentine Republic, advancing the city’s interests as a diplomat and military strategist, only to become a political pariah when the Republic was defeated. His egalitarian politics made him an enemy of the Medici family, and his secular outlook put him at odds with religious zealots. But he soon learned to mask his true convictions, becoming a great artist of foxlike dissimulation. Machiavelli’s masterpiece, The Prince, was in fact a critique of princely power, but the critique had to be veiled, written as it was after the Medici triumphed over the Republic. In Be Like the Fox, the most accurate and compelling portrait of Machiavelli yet, Benner recounts the gripping story of a brilliant political thinker, showing that Machiavelli’s ideas—about democratic institutions, diplomacy, and freedom—are more important than ever.
In the five hundred years since he wrote The Prince, Machiavelli's name has been linked to tyranny and the doctrine that "the ends justify the means." But that is not what he stood for. In Be Like the Fox, Erica Benner takes us back to Renaissance Florence, where newly liberated citizens fought to build a free republic after the Medici princes were exiled. Machiavelli dedicated his life to this struggle for freedom. But despite his heroic efforts, the Medici soon swept back into power. Forced out of politics and prevented from speaking freely, Machiavelli had to use his skills of foxlike dissimulation to defend democracy in an era of tyrannical princes. Drawing on his letters, political writings, hard-hitting satirical dramas, and conversations with kings and popes, Be Like the Fox reveals Machiavelli as an unlikely hero for our times.
GUARDIAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017 LONGLISTED FOR THE HISTORICAL WRITERS' ASSOCIATION NON-FICTION CROWN 2017 'A ripping read ... fascinating, charming, enjoyably unorthodox' Daily Telegraph Was Niccolò Machiavelli really the cynical schemer of legend - or was he a profound ethical thinker, who tried to save the democratic freedom of Renaissance Florence as it was threatened by ruthless dynasties? This revelatory biography shows us a man of fox-like dissimulation: a master of disguise in dangerous times. 'A gripping portrait of a brilliant political thinker, who understood the dangers of authoritarianism and looked for ways to curb them' The New Yorker 'Compelling ... this unconventional biography questions whether the philosopher deserves his reputation as an advocate for tyranny' Julian Baggini, Financial Times
LONGLISTED FOR THE HISTORICAL WRITERS' ASSOCIATION NON-FICTION CROWN 2017 'Lively, compulsively readable, fluently written and unshowily erudite' Guardian 'A gripping portrait of a brilliant political thinker, who understood the dangers of authoritarianism and looked for ways to curb them even though independent speech had become impossible' The New Yorker 'A ripping read . . . fascinating, charming, enjoyably unorthodox' Telegraph Niccol� Machiavelli lived in a fiercely competitive world, one where brute wealth, brazen liars and ruthless self-promoters seemed to carry off all the prizes; where the wealthy elite grew richer at the expense of their fellow citizens. In times like these, many looked to crusading religion to solve their problems, or they turned to a new breed of leaders - super-rich dynasties like the Medici or military strongmen like Cesare Borgia; upstarts from outside the old ruling classes. In the republic of Florence, Machiavelli and his contemporaries faced a choice: should they capitulate to these new princes, or fight to save the city's democratic freedoms? Be Like the Fox follows Machiavelli's dramatic quest for political and human freedom through his own eyes. Masterfully interweaving his words with those of his friends and enemies, Erica Benner breathes life into his penetrating, comical, often surprising comments on events. Far from the cynical henchman people think he was, Machiavelli emerges as his era's staunchest champion of liberty, a profound ethical thinker who refused to compromise his ideals to fit corrupt times. But he did sometimes have to mask his true convictions, becoming a great artist of fox-like dissimulation: a master of disguise in dangerous times.
Machiavelli's Ethics challenges the most entrenched understandings of Machiavelli, arguing that he was a moral and political philosopher who consistently favored the rule of law over that of men, that he had a coherent theory of justice, and that he did not defend the "Machiavellian" maxim that the ends justify the means. By carefully reconstructing the principled foundations of his political theory, Erica Benner gives the most complete account yet of Machiavelli's thought. She argues that his difficult and puzzling style of writing owes far more to ancient Greek sources than is usually recognized, as does his chief aim: to teach readers not how to produce deceptive political appearances and rhetoric, but how to see through them. Drawing on a close reading of Greek authors--including Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, and Plutarch--Benner identifies a powerful and neglected key to understanding Machiavelli. This important new interpretation is based on the most comprehensive study of Machiavelli's writings to date, including a detailed examination of all of his major works: The Prince, The Discourses, The Art of War, and Florentine Histories. It helps explain why readers such as Bacon and Rousseau could see Machiavelli as a fellow moral philosopher, and how they could view The Prince as an ethical and republican text. By identifying a rigorous structure of principles behind Machiavelli's historical examples, the book should also open up fresh debates about his relationship to later philosophers, including Rousseau, Hobbes, and Kant.
Some of the world's foremost historians of ideas consider Machiavelli's political thought in the larger context of the republican tradition.
Men are infamous and detestable who are destroyers of religion, squanderers of kingdoms and republics, and enemies of the virtues.' Niccolo Machiavelli Machiavelli (1459-1527) is one of the most influential modern political thinkers. His works, above all The Prince, The Discourses on Livy, The Florentine Histories and The Art of War, are still passionately discussed and continue to give rise to new visions of political action. Against the trite commonplace that Machiavelli was a teacher of evil who justified political immorality, Maurizio Viroli shows that Machiavaelli was concerned instead with the best way to attain true glory through political action and that his works were inspired by a profound love of republican liberty. Extracts are taken from the whole corpus of Machiavelli's works, including his personal letters.

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