In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

MACHIAVELLI AND FASCISM HERBERT L. STEWART T HE purpose of this article is to discuss an alleged in timacy of connection between the doctrines of Fascism and Machiavelli's theory of the state. Nothing could be easier than to point out numerous resemblances in detail, and the devotion many times avowed by Mussolini to his Machiavellian inheritance may be quoted as dispensing the investigator from further trouble. But superficial resemblances are often limitedĀ· to the surface, and no one is likely to accept Mussolini's self-analysis as closing the question, in view of the many examples of men great in action but confused in theory. The Fascist dictator has recorded his belief that The Prince is the supreme guide to statesmanship, avowing his desire to preserve close contact between its doctrine and his own life: "between Machiavelli's thoughts and my thoughts on men and affairs, between Machiavelli's practice and my practice in governing." The question is as to the success with which that purpose has been pursued. I Not much time need .be spent on the obvious coincidences : e.g., the insistence again heard that a statesman must be unscrupulous, setting the public advantage above every other object, and willing for any deceit or any cruelty by which this may be promoted. One hears in many a speech from the Duce, and one notes in many of hisĀ· conversations reported by Emil Ludwig, the familiar Machiavellian thought about the need for remorselessĀ· cunning not only in transactions abroad but in administration at home, about the maintenance of the despot33 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY ism as justifying every measure of severity or guile that will ensure it, and about the eternal law of human nature , that men will always be false to their chief unless compelled to be true. Butit is not in such mere reproductions that the important common element is to be fOlllld. Machiavelli's own philosophic interest does not lie in his scorn for scruple, his argument that selfishness is the sqle efficacious motive, or his suggestion that crimes are freed from shame if they are carried out on a gigantic scale. These are doctrines as old as Plato's ThrasymaellUS , as recent as Friedrich Nietzsche. But what was it that made Machiavelli notable in the progress of thought, and how far does Fascism share or continue his specific achievement? Surely what distinguished him was his initiation of a vast change in the study of social and political history, a change which in that field marks the close of the middle age and the beginning of the modern world. Bacon said of him that his great merit was to have turned attention from speculating about how things ought to be, and concentrated it on how things are. He broke away from the medieval teleology, from the governing ideas about divine mission or supernatural equipment for the state, and began to study the state as the natural outcome of warring interests, specifying its diiferenttypes, examining the respective consequences of aristocracy, democracy, oligarchy, as a comparative morphologist might examine animal fo~ms. His diatribes against the temporal power of the Papacy, his constant insistence that church and state must be kept apart, except in so far as the astute ruler will use religion for his secular purposes, made his books and his memory the object of detestation. But his method, apart from his conclusions, constituted a great step forward. Machiavelli 's study of the causes of Floren tine and Italian 34 MACHIAVELLI AND FASCISM decadence, as well as his forecast of methods of recovery, have on the whole stood the test of the most searching cntlclsm. Such are the qualities of his work which come to mind when one is challenged to say how far a contemporary movemen t reveals' his spirit. He was a typical product of the Renaissance, not so much creating as reviving , under the motto "Back to the ancients-forgetting the medieval parenthesis." It has often been noted . among products of the Revival of Learning that civil law was re-established, and that canon law proportionately receded. Not less conspicuous was the re-founding of moral and political philosophy. As one closes...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 33-48
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.