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The Importance of Being Civil by John A. Hall

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CHAPTER 3

How Best to Rule

Although Machiavelli is very often seen as a bad man, he is without a peer when it comes to teaching us how best to rule, a formulation designed to be ambiguous. I will bracket (at least for now) recent scholarship on the Florentine’s republicanism—that is, the Machiavelli of The Discourses, the prophet of active citizenship and liberty—so as to concentrate on the adviser to princes. The Prince is concerned most of all with how to hold new territory, from which derive various principles of rule that led to Machiavelli gaining his reputation for evil. I have always had a divided view about this. On the one hand, there is a very great deal to be said for the view that politics is not moral, that its language is violence, ...

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