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Four Seminal Thinkers in International TheoryMachiavelli, Grotius, Kant, and Mazzini$
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Martin Wight

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199273676

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199273677.001.0001

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3 May 1469–22 June 1527

(p.3) Chapter 1 Machiavelli
Four Seminal Thinkers in International Theory

Martin Wight

Oxford University Press

Machiavelli’s popular image is inadequate, for it ignores the idealism of his intense Italian patriotism. He starts with the ‘is’ rather than the ‘ought’ and rejects transcendentalism. He derives, although uncritically, his realism from historical examples found in Livy (The Discourses) as well as from contemporary politics (The Prince). He sees men as bad although their pursuit of power reflects their insecurity. One way to understand Machiavelli is through political irony, which fascinated him. He has a bias towards extremism and ruthlessness and lays emphasis upon virtù (political skill) and fortuna (luck). The political art is to move with the tide of history.

Keywords:   fortuna, historical examples, human nature, irony, Livy, power, realism, ruthlessness, virtù

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