Archive for the ‘Filosofi’ Category

MAKT | Apropå Niccolò Machiavelli skriver John Gray att liberala tänkare skulle må bra av att ta till sig några av florentinarens erfarenheter.

New Statesman 12-18 juli 2013

Enligt Gray har liberaler ofta en överdriven tro på att goda lagar kan upprätta och garantera människor deras rättigheter i länder som Irak, Afghanistan, Libyen och Syrien.

Att bara prata om mänskliga rättigheter leder ofta inte till några varaktiga resultat. Lagar kan aldrig, enligt Gray, ersätta politik.

Politik och ett lands lagar är alltför nära sammankopplade med varandra för att denna relationen skall kunna skapas av västmakterna när de tar över misslyckade och defekta länder på andra sidan jordklotet.

Gray skriver i New Statesman:

One of the peculiarities of political thought at the present time is that it is fundamentally hostile to politics. Bismarck may have opined that laws are like sausages – it’s best not to inquire too closely into how they are made – but for many, the law has an austere authority that stands far above any grubby political compromise. In the view of most liberal thinkers today, basic liberties and equalities should be embedded in law, interpreted by judges and enforced as a matter of principle. A world in which little or nothing of importance is left to the contingencies of politics is the implicit ideal of the age.

The trouble is that politics can’t be swept to one side in this way. The law these liberals venerate isn’t a free-standing institution towering majestically above the chaos of human conflict. Instead – and this is where the Florentine diplomat and historian Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) comes in – modern law is an artefact of state power. Probably nothing is more important for the protection of freedom than the independence of the judiciary from the executive; but this independence (which can never be complete) is possible only when the state is strong and secure. Western governments blunder around the world gibbering about human rights; but there can be no rights without the rule of law and no rule of law in a fractured or failed state, which is the usual result of westernsponsored regime change. In many cases geopolitical calculations may lie behind the decision to intervene; yet it is a fantasy about the nature of rights that is the public rationale, and there is every sign that our leaders take the fantasy for real. The grisly fiasco that has been staged in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – a larger and more dangerous version of which seems to be unfolding in Syria – testifies to the hold on western leaders of the delusion that law can supplant politics.

Machiavelli is commonly thought to be a realist, and up to a point it is an apt description. A victim of intrigue – after being falsely accused of conspiracy, he was arrested, tortured and exiled from Florence – he was not tempted by idealistic visions of human behaviour. He knew that fear was a more reliable guide to human action than sympathy or loyalty, and accepted that deception will always be part of politics.


Resistance to his thought comes now not from Christian divines but from liberal thinkers. According to the prevailing philosophy of liberal legalism, political conflict can be averted by a well-designed constitution and freedoms enshrined in a regime of rights. In reality, as Machiavelli well knew, constitutions and legal systems come and go.


The true lesson of Machiavelli is that the alternative to politics is not law but unending war. When they topple tyrants for the sake of faddish visions of rights, western governments enmesh themselves in intractable conflicts they do not understand and cannot hope to control. Yet if Machiavelli could return from the grave, he would hardly be annoyed or frustrated by such folly. Ever aware of the incurable human habit of mistaking fancy for reality, he would simply respond with a Florentine smile.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 12-18 juli 2013.

Read Full Post »

FILOSOFI | Niccolò Machiavellis Fursten är en av få böcker som ständigt verkar finnas tillgänglig hos välsorterade bokhandlare.

Philosophy Now nr 97 juli-augusti 2013

Även hans mindre kända verk finns på svenska om man bara söker hos nätbokhandlarna.

Och på senaste tiden kan man märka en viss renässans även när det gäller biografier och verk som behandlar hans politiska idéer. Trenden nu verkar vara att inte måla honom i nattsvarta färger.

I Sverige kom t.ex. 2004 Maurizio Virolis utmärkta Niccolòs leende – Historien om Machiavelli som var ett intressant porträtt som inte bara tecknade florentinaren i negativa termer.

Lite mer udda var Niccolo & Nikolaj – Ofärdsårens Finland i Machiavellis perspektiv (1999) där Mårten Ringbom granskade tsarens politik i storfurstendömet Finland med hjälp av den bild vi traditionellt har av Machiavellis idéer.

Och i år har det nästan samtidigt dykt upp två nya böcker – Corrado Vivantis Niccolò Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography och Philip Bobbits The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made.

Därför kommer det lägligt att Graeme Garrard skriver i Philosophy Now om Machiavellis politiska filosofi. Garrard konstaterar t.ex. att florentinaren är en av få författare vars namn även är ett adjektiv.

One of Machiavelli’s most important innovations in The Prince is his redefinition of ‘virtue’, which he equates with the qualities necessary for political success – including ruthlessness, guile, deceit, and a willingness to occasionally commit acts that would be deemed evil by conventional standards.

The classical ideal of virtue Machiavelli rejected was expressed by Cicero (106-43 BCE), whose De officiis (On Duties) was read and copied more frequently during the Renaissance than any other single work of classical Latin prose. Cicero argued that rulers are successful only when they are morally good – by which he meant adhering to the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, justice, restraint and courage, as well as being honest. For Cicero, the belief that self-interest or expediency conflicts with ethical goodness is not only mistaken but deeply corrosive of public life and morals. In Renaissance Europe this idealistic view of politics was reinforced by the Christian belief in divine retribution in the afterlife for the injustices committed in this life, and the cardinal virtues were supplemented by the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Machiavelli believed that the ethical outlooks of both Cicero and Christianity were rigid and unrealistic, and actually cause more harm than they prevent. […]Machiavelli asserts in The Prince that a ruler “cannot conform to all those rules that men who are thought good are expected to respect, for he is often obliged, in order to hold on to power, to break his word, to be uncharitable, inhumane, and irreligious. So he must be mentally prepared to act as circumstances and changes in fortune require. As I have said, he should do what is right if he can; but he must be prepared to do what is wrong if necessary.” By doing ‘wrong’, he means in the conventional sense of the word – but, in reality, it is right, even obligatory, sometimes to commit acts that, while morally repellent themselves, are nonetheless good in their consequences because they prevent greater evil.


Machiavelli was one of the first writers in the West openly to state that dirty hands are an unavoidable part of politics, and to accept the troubling ethical implications of this hard truth without flinching. Politicians who deny it are not only unrealistic, but are likely to lead citizens down a path to greater evil and misery than is necessary. That is why we ought to think twice before condemning them when they sanction acts that may be wrong in a perfect world. A perfect world is not, and never will be, the world of politics.

Mer: Läs Joanna Kavennas recension av Vivantis och Bobbits böcker i The Spectator. Från samma tidskrift kan även rekommenderas Melanie McDonaghs intervju med Bobbitt.

Tidskriftsomslag: Philosophy Now, juli/augusti 2013.

Read Full Post »