Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Machiavelli, Niccolò (1469–1527)
Diego von Vacano
In the history of Western political thought, few thinkers have been as influential—or as controversial—as the sixteenth-century Florentine statesman Niccolò Machiavelli. The author of a wide-ranging collection of writings, Machiavelli was a true Renaissance man. He lived a political life of both practical and theoretical importance, while making an important contribution to Italian literature as well. Often misunderstood, his writings have been characterized as representing a cynical, duplicitous quest for power at all costs; hence the colloquial term Machiavellian. In fact, the author of The Prince and the Discourses on Livy , among other works, was a founder of modern political thought who never endorsed the idea that “the ends justify the means.” His corpus is rich, complex, and variegated, something that has led to numerous—and sometimes vastly different—interpretations. Machiavelli's legacy is part of the advent of modernity. However, it involves the recovery and reconceptualization of classical humanism. By being ...