Contract received for Response to Machiavelli, my third book

News Date 
Tue, 2013-05-21
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Algora Publisher, who published my second book, "A Fatal Addiction: War in the Name of God" (2012) just sent me a contract for my third book, working title of "Response to Machiavelli."

 

Response to Machiavelli traces the influence of the Renaissance Florentine thinker on American politics, from the Founders (c. 1770s) through today's rough-and-tumble political panorama.  The last section offers a “response to Machiavelli,” a specific,  implementable program that will begin to devolve the power of American democracy back to the people, and away from the shrinking numbers of oligarchs who control the political system through Machiavellian means and vast amounts of money.

 

 

The book begins with a discussion of Machiavelli’s ideas, and then specifically lays out how his thinking influences American political actors.  Machiavelli, whose ideas have been re-interpreted internationally as “real-politik,” proposed that the “ends justify the means,” and any manner of fraud, violence or corruption must be utilized in attaining and retaining power.  People, he assured, are so mean, small and selfish that they will only act under necessity, so the successful prince must force the population, through whatever means necessary, to follow his dictates.  For Machiavelli, there was  no higher form of fraud than the appearance of religiosity, and the successful prince must hold no art higher than that of war.

 

After coming to an understanding of Machiavelli’s life and ideas, the next section of the book looks specifically at the manner in which the Renaissance philosopher has influenced American politics.  The first section of this chapter examines the Machiavellian impact on the ideas of such American icons as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other founding fathers.

 

Following this exposition comes a longer look at contemporary American politics, and how profoundly influenced by the Florentine philosopher it is.  As Renaissance scholar Paul Grendler noted:

After World War II, [Machiavelli] came into his own as an advisor to American policymakers.  Today, Machiavelli’s influence on political policy may be greater than at any time since he served the Florentine government.  Machiavelli has become American.

Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, George W. Bush, the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (2010) and the Super PACs it spawned, the massive amounts of money (“power’s master key”), the intermingling of the language of religion and war, and the 90% negative advertising of the 2012 Presidential campaign (channeling Machiavelli’s dictum that the adversary must be “assassinated,” though in contemporary America by character assassinating) and even Barack Obama's Machiavellian machinations are looked at in light of the Renaissance political philosopher’s ideas. 

 America is shown to be a surprising example of Machiavellian politics, utilizing all of the post-modern methods of information distribution and “legal” fraud and corruption.

The final two sections look for and find an antidote.  Chapter Four (The Threshold of a New Era) explores the specific reasons that we might hope that the citizenry can wrest the public square from it’s amoral, unmoored Machiavellian pit.  Morality can become the center of public interaction – even in the bloody 20th century, prophet activists such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela were able to change the course of history for the better, centering their political movements not in Machiavelli's ideas, but in ethical behavior working for the common good.

Chapter Five (A Response to Machiavelli) offers a specific program that may be implemented in 21st century Washington D.C., to insert a moral into the heart of the American political system, as well as our more general public square.  Far from throwing up our hands and turning away from the myopic and power-centered political scene, this book proposes that we create a “Moral Ombudsman,” a non-profit organization that would operate within the normative framework of the American social and cultural scene, but with a decidedly prophetic bent.

The specific manner in which the Moral Ombudsman would be built and operate in today’s political climate is outlined.  In the end, the reader is asked not to give in to frustration, but to roll up his sleeves in determination.  Prophetic ideas are always deemed absurd before the fact; after the fact, they are simply a part of the historical narrative of humankind.

A Response to Machiavelli offers one manner of healing our painfully fractured political landscape.