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Machiavelli against Republicanism: On the Cambridge School's "Guicciardinian Moments"

John P. McCormick
Political Theory
Vol. 31, No. 5 (Oct., 2003), pp. 615-643
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3595689
Page Count: 29
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Machiavelli against Republicanism: On the Cambridge School's "Guicciardinian Moments"
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Abstract

Scholars loosely affiliated with the "Cambridge School" (e.g., Pocock, Skinner, Viroli, and Pettit) accentuate rule of law, common good, class equilibrium, and non-domination in Machiavelli's political thought and republicanism generally but underestimate the Florentine's preference for class conflict and ignore his insistence on elite accountability. The author argues that they obscure the extent to which Machiavelli is an anti-elitist critic of the republican tradition, which they fail to disclose was predominantly oligarchic. The prescriptive lessons these scholars draw from republicanism for contemporary politics reinforce rather than reform the "senatorial," electorally based, and socioeconomically agnostic republican model (devised by Machiavelli's aristocratic interlocutor, Guicciardini, and refined by Montesquieu and Madison) that permits common citizens to acclaim but not determine government policies. Cambridge School textual interpretations and practical proposals have little connection with Machiavelli's "tribunate," class-specific model of popular government elaborated in The Discourses, one that relies on extra-electoral accountability techniques and embraces deliberative popular assemblies.

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