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Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400-1434

John F. Padgett and Christopher K. Ansell
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 98, No. 6 (May, 1993), pp. 1259-1319
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2781822
Page Count: 61
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Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400-1434
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Abstract

We analyze the centralization of political parties and elite networks that underlay the birth of the Renaissance state in Florence. Class revolt and fisical crisis were the ultimate causes of elite consolidation, but Medicean political control was produced by means of network disjunctures within the elite, which the Medici alone spanned. Cosimo de' Medici's multivocal identity as sphinx harnessed the power available in these network holes and resolved the contradiction between judge and boss inherent in all organizations. Methodologically, we argue that to understand state formation one must penetrate beneath the veneer of formal institutions, groups, and goals down to the relational substrata of peoples' actual lives. Ambiguity and heterogeneity, not planning and self- interest, are the raw materials of which powerful states and persons are constructed.

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