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Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

10. Machiavelli  

Joseph V. Femia

This chapter examines Niccolò Machiavelli's contribution to political thought. It first provides a short biography of Machiavelli before discussing the main perspectives on Machiavelli and the reasons for their divergence. It then considers the historical and intellectual context that helped to shape Machiavelli's thinking, asking how the Renaissance differed from the Middle Ages, the extent to which Machiavelli was a man of the Renaissance, and why the Italian scene stimulated creative thought about politics. The chapter also explores Machiavelli's most innovative ideas: his rejection of metaphysics and teleology, whether of the Christian or aristotelian variety; his empirical and historical approach to the study of political affairs; and his anti-utopianism and belief in ‘reason of state’.