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Despite their apparently contradictory views on religion’s role in statecraft, and despite being separated by both history and geography, Al-Mawardi and Machiavelli approach the question of political power in an unapologetically direct fashion. This paper interrogates their philosophies and the way in which their highly unstable social settings and their rather more stable religious traditions intersect in two of their key texts, The Ordinances of Government and The Prince, respectively. These texts demonstrate that even early Muslim tradition had a theory of impersonal governance, whereas 500 years later Europeans had by no means given up on narratives of personified power.


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