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terça-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2020

Maquiavel era maquiavélico? - Livro de Patrick Boucheron (traduzido do francês)

A New Book Asks: Just How Machiavellian Was Machiavelli?

The term “Orwellian” has always struck me as curiously Orwellian — a mild example of doublespeak that ties an author’s good name to the dystopia he so memorably depicted. (See also “Dickensian” and “Kafkaesque.”) Instead of referring to George Orwell’s crisp prose or moral clarity, “Orwellian” is like the doctor’s name that ends up anointing the terrible disease he discovered, forever yoked to the affliction he abhorred.
“Machiavellian” is another shorthand that inverts its namesake, even if the Renaissance statesman and writer Niccolò Machiavelli still gets cast in the popular imagination as a cynical proponent of ruthless power politics. In “Machiavelli: The Art of Teaching People What to Fear,” the French historian Patrick Boucheron joins an estimable list of scholars who have been trying to debunk the crude stereotype of Machiavelli as a fascist enabler and tyrant whisperer.
This energetic little book started out as a series of talks for French public radio in 2016, and it offers a knowing guide to Machiavelli’s life and work. The tone, in Willard Wood’s translation, is playfully conspiratorial. Boucheron invites us to think through how Machiavelli became synonymous with unscrupulous despotism when the real man suffered for his republican allegiances.
Boucheron’s breezy use of the first-person plural keeps his argument humming amiably along, though some English-language readers might feel buffeted by the occasional gusts of cultural presumption. “We are familiar with Guy Debord’s prophetic 1967 work ‘The Society of the Spectacle,’” Boucheron declares in passing. (We are?) “We have therefore been warned about the pernicious effects of commodity fetishism and the frenzied acclamation it generates.”
What Boucheron is talking about is the Florence of Machiavelli’s birth in 1469 — a republic in name only, “swollen with pride” and “gradually settling into oligarchy,” where officials were elected to office every two months, thereby ensuring the de facto rule of wealthy families like the Medicis. In 1498, after a coup and a strange, four-year reign by the Dominican friar Savonarola, the 29-year-old Machiavelli ascended to a government post that put him in charge of Florence’s foreign affairs.
Over the next 14 years, Machiavelli gained political experience, observing up close how power worked. As the envoy from a tiny state who met with both adversaries and allies, he was sometimes subject to contempt and humiliation, and accordingly learned certain lessons. Boucheron makes a clever case that travel was “an exercise in disorientation,” allowing Machiavelli to see Florence and its position in the world anew: “Is this not what the painters of the Renaissance called perspective?”
When the Medicis returned in 1512, due not to popular demand but to foreign support, they had Machiavelli arrested and imprisoned, stringing him up by a pulley to force him to scream out a confession of wrongdoing, which he didn’t do. A year later, Machiavelli was living in exile on his farm, writing “Of Principalities,” the book that would become better known as “The Prince.”
Never officially published in his lifetime, “The Prince” would become his most popular work, and the one most likely to be misread. It’s an irony that wouldn’t have been lost on Machiavelli, whom Boucheron deems an inveterate dramatist and irrepressible trickster. The standard reading of “The Prince” views it as Machiavelli’s attempt to ingratiate himself to the returning Medicis by offering them what amounted to a book-length job application: a treatise filled with underhanded tactics for seizing and maintaining power.
“It is much safer to be feared than loved”; “people should either be caressed or crushed”; “the new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict,” and “must inflict them once and for all.” This is the Machiavellian Machiavelli: amoral, conniving and cruel, responding to whatever the situation demands. A 16th-century Catholic cardinal was so horrified by “The Prince” that he said it was written by “the finger of Satan.”
But it has always been hard to square such a literal reading with the facts of Machiavelli’s life, and with the republican theories he developed in books like “Discourses.” Some critics have insisted that Machiavelli’s advice was so brutal and outlandish that the depraved ruler who actually dared to put his precepts into practice would make his people hate him and inevitably bring about his own ruin; this was “The Prince” as Trojan horse or poison pill, crafted by a former political prisoner intent on bringing down the Medici clan. Still others decided Machiavelli was a satirist, while Rousseau read “The Prince” as a warning: Machiavelli, by dissecting the mechanics of power, was telling people what they ought to fear.
“Machiavelli is the master of disillusioning,” Boucheron writes. “That’s why, all through history, he’s been a trusted ally in evil times.” It’s not so much the content of “The Prince” as its approach, with its “theatrical energy” and “sure and rapid pace,” that offers a way to think about politics not as static and immutable but as stubbornly contingent. Cultivating republican institutions and the rule of law requires certain techniques; sheer political survival requires others. In a capricious world, Boucheron writes, intentions only count for so much: “He lets us see how the social energy of political configurations always spills out of the neat constructs in which it’s meant to stay put.”

Boucheron thinks the United States is currently grappling with what the historian J.G.A. Pocock called the “Machiavellian moment,” when instability puts the future of a republic at stake. A resurgence of Machiavelli suggests something has gone awfully awry. “If we’re reading him today,” Boucheron writes, “it means we should be worried.”
But just as his subject had a “taste for paradox,” Boucheron refuses to leave it at that. If we’re reading Machiavelli today, we might also learn something from his “lucidity, the weapon of the despairing.” In other words, there’s still some hope.

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