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Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.

Mostrando postagens com marcador Erica Benner. Mostrar todas as postagens
Mostrando postagens com marcador Erica Benner. Mostrar todas as postagens

sexta-feira, 17 de março de 2017

Macchiavelli: ecce homo, ou ecco l'uomo, o patriota, numa nova biografia

Be Like a Fox by Erica Benner review – was Machiavelli really not Machiavellian?

The Prince was meant ironically, and its author was really a nice guy, argues this compulsively readable study

The Guardian, Wednesday 15 March 2017 

One has grown used to reading the kind of revisionist history in which the Renaissance was a myth, the Reformation never happened and the great Irish famine was a spot of food shortage. Britain blundered into ruling India by a series of unfortunate oversights, and Attila the Hun was by no means as bad as he has been painted.

It was inevitable, then, that someone would come up with a book arguing that Machiavelli was not Machiavellian. In one sense, to be sure, we have known this all along. The renowned 16th-century diplomat and politician was a staunch republican and reformer who denounced corruption in high places and detested tyrants, which was not the best recipe for a quiet life in the Florence of the Medici family. As a humanist in the mould of Livy and Cicero, he urged his fellow citizens to question conventional wisdom and take nothing on authority. Rulers were not to be deceived by false glory, and high birth was by no means a guarantee of virtue. The public good took precedence over private interests and political sectarianism. You should treat your enemies justly, uphold the rule of law and show respect to others, if only to win them over to your side.
Yet Machiavelli was writing at a time when this ancient humanist heritage was running up against the more sceptical vision of the modern age. If he thought despots were despicable, it was not because he believed that people could be trusted to run their own lives. On the contrary, his drastically low estimate of their abilities is typical of political conservatism. Conservatives tend to believe that human beings are flawed, limited creatures who need to be strictly disciplined if anything useful is to be squeezed out of them. Liberals, by contrast, place their faith in the more generous instincts of humanity, which will flourish if only they are allowed free rein.
There is no doubt about which camp the author of The Prince belongs to. We are entering an era of realpolitik, suspicious of grand ideals and noble motives; and what is striking about Machiavelli’s work is that this disenchanted view of politics is now becoming part of political philosophy itself. Thinking should be based on how men and women are, not how one would wish them to be. Princes should govern virtuously if they can, but if they can achieve their ends only by fraud, treachery and cruelty, then so be it. If necessary they should break their oaths, cheat their allies and assassinate their rivals. It is a stunning deviation from the classical tradition.
Erica Benner’s lively, compulsively readable biography finds this kind of stuff a problem. She sees Machiavelli not only as non-Machiavellian but as a good-hearted, Gary Lineker-type guy. This is revisionism with a vengeance. Hardly a word of rebuke for this admirer of the bloodstained Cesare Borgia passes Benner’s lips. She adopts a now-fashionable biographical mode, in which it is obligatory to refer to your subject by his or her first name and invent gestures or snatches of dialogue that make them seem more human. The mildly patronising assumption that the reader will be bored by history unless it is brought alive in this pseudo-fictional way lurks behind many a recent piece of life-writing. As a result, criticism gives way to empathy.
Despite her remarkably charitable treatment of “Niccolo”, Benner does not overdo the fake dialogue and dreamed-up scenarios. There are a few clunky moments in this respect – “‘I think,’ [his mother] Bartolommea says in low tones so their children can’t hear, ‘that Nencia might be pregnant.’” On the whole, though, the book avoids too much fictional embroidery, not least because 16th-century Florentine history is dramatic enough in its own right. There are some fascinating accounts of conspiracies and intrigues, political trouble-making and diplomatic trouble-shooting, fanatical friars and military disasters.
So what of the Machiavelli who advocates force and fraud? Most of this inconvenient stuff is to be found in The Prince, and in Benner’s view is meant to be ironic. The book is dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici, and commends, tongue in cheek, just the kind of unsavoury conduct that is likely to bring him and his kind low. There are problems with this explanation. For one thing, the biography has been seen as a kind of job application by its author for a post as political counsellor to the Medici, and even Benner has to admit that the family could hardly be expected to look benevolently on a man who advised them to act as villains, however much they did so anyway. For another thing, some of the discreditable attitudes of The Prince can be found elsewhere in Machiavelli’s writing, not least the view that the end justifies the means.
Demonising Machiavelli does no justice to the complexity of his life and work, though idealising him isn’t the answer either. Even so, Be Like a Fox is a valuable demolition-and-salvage job, fluently written and unshowily erudite. One awaits Martin Luther: Servant of the Pope with a certain sense of fatality.
 Terry Eagleton’s Materialism is published by Yale. Be Like a Fox is published by Allen Lane. To order a copy for £17 (RRP £20) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99
Sobre o livro:

One needs to be a fox to recognize snares, and a lion to frighten the wolves Niccolo Machiavelli lived in a fiercely competitive world, one where brute wealth, brazen liars and ruthless self-promoters seemed to carry off all the prizes; where the wealthy elite grew richer at the expense of their fellow citizens. In times like these, many looked to crusading religion to solve their problems, or they turned to a new breed of leaders - super-rich dynasties like the Medici or military strongmen like Cesare Borgia; upstarts from outside the old ruling classes. In the republic of Florence, Machiavelli and his contemporaries faced a choice: should they capitulate to these new princes, or fight to save the city s democratic freedoms? Be Like the Fox follows Machiavelli s dramatic quest for political and human freedom through his own eyes. Masterfully interweaving his words with those of his friends and enemies, Erica Benner breathes life into his penetrating, comical, often surprising comments on events. Far from the cynical henchman people think he was, Machiavelli emerges as his era s staunchest champion of liberty, a profound ethical thinker who refused to compromise his ideals to fit corrupt times. But he did sometimes have to mask his true convictions, becoming a great artist of fox-like dissimulation: a master of disguise in dangerous times.