Niccolò Machiavelli, Florence-born author of The Prince, is the mastermind of the global political game, the founder of political science who understood how to manipulate human affairs to achieve any desired end. Though he never put it on paper, the famous maxim that °the ends justify the means° is attributed to him. But do they? And does he really mean it? For him, politics is the realm of appearances, the place for inventing ideas and identities, the theatre of dissimulation–where truth is subjected to power, power is mingled with lies, and propaganda, both written and visual, is the principal tool of power. It would appear that Machiavelli is the original evil genius, and his name In adjectival form is used to describe any self-serving dictator. On closer inspection, however, perhaps Messer Niccolò Is less ruthless than usually portrayed. His work raises important issues of morality in politics and provides lessons about how best to govern–if you know how to interpret them. This course will examine those issues and lessons, and analyze the multifarious, high- and low-brow reactions to the 500-year-old Prince, one of the most influential works of political theory and practice ever written. We will take full advantage of being in Machiavelli’s hometown, and evoke the environment of his life and career, from his office in the Palazzo Vecchio, to his countryside villa in San Casciano and his tomb in the church of Santa Croce, as well as the artworks depicting both him and the lessons he offers to the rulers of Florence. We will also “play” with many levels of “pop culture” including Machiavelli’s presence in the videogame Assassin’s Creed In order to discern the man and his Ideas from the myth.
Course fee: covers day trip to Casa Machiavelli and Florence site visits (spring 2023 fee = $95).
Department: Political Science