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New Left Review 100, July-August 2016

malcolm bull


Machiavelli’s enduring notoriety derives from his willingness to offer political advice to anyone, and his acknowledgement that such advice may differ radically according to circumstance. The answer to the question ‘What would Machiavelli say?’ is always going to be an interesting one because Machiavelli does not have a set of abstract principles from which his answers can be deduced. His analysis works only with motivations internal to the situation to which it refers, and comes without the usual side-constraints. For that reason it is always liable to surprise, redescribing the familiar in unfamiliar terms, and placing means and ends in novel relation.

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Malcolm Bull, ‘Softening Up the State’, NLR 100: £3

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