Feminist Interpretations of Niccolò Machiavelli

Edited by Maria J. Falco

Paperback - £41.95

Publication date:

15 August 2004

Length of book:

440 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271023892

Diplomat, bureaucrat, and practical politician, Niccolò Machiavelli served as Second Secretary to the Republic of Florence in the early sixteenth century and became the first major political thinker in the western tradition to make a complete break with the Aristotelian model of politics as a branch of ethics. While The Prince is his most famous work, grounding his reputation as the progenitor of "Realpolitik," his many other writings have contributed to a more complex and broader image of the man and his political thought. Thus in recent years Machiavelli has come to be seen as a republican and a proto-liberal by some mainstream political theorists, and as an obfuscator of traditional values and ideologies, including gender roles, by feminists and non-feminists alike.

The contributors to this volume, grappling with questions about the position of women in political society, investigate whether or not Machiavelli was truly a misogynist and a proto-fascist or instead a proto-feminist and a democratic republican. Among the themes they explore are the implications of such dichotomies as Fortuna and virtù, the public and the private, nature and reason, ends and means, functionality and the common good, as well as the importance of the military to the socialization of citizens, particularly women, to civic life, and the social construction of gender. Some of the contributors even consider the possibility that Machiavelli's approach to ethics provides a special insight that feminists, and women generally, might explore to their benefit.

Besides the editor, the contributors are Wendy Brown, Jane Jaquette, Donald McIntosh, Melissa Matthes, Vesna Marcina, Martin Morris, Cary Nederman, Andrea Nicki, Mary O'Brien, Hanna Pitkin, Arlene Saxonhouse, John Shin, R. Claire Snyder, and Catherine Zuckert.

“This volume of 14 essays makes a valuable contribution to three related academic fields: history of feminist thought, history of political thought in North America, and the general history of political thought. In her Introduction, editor Maria Falco has done an excellent job of bringing her readers up to date on the evolving state of the feminist critiques of Machiavelli. . . . The new possibilities that Feminist Interpretations of Nicolò Machiavelli has opened up are challenging and rewarding. Young scholars who have the mental flexibility and the time to reread, to rethink, and to reinterpret him should take full advantage of them.”

—Anthony Parel, Perspectives on Politics