Realism Vs. Idealism In Machiavelli's Republic

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The first of the four varieties of the standard Machiavelli is the “means to an end” Machiavelli. This Machiavelli justifies the horrible, inhumane means for a more “moral” end. In contemporary scholarship, these interpreters imply that this moral end is a unified Italy based on the Roman Republic. However, they do not take into account the “predatory nature of Machiavelli’s republic” (200). Machiavelli’s vision of his republic using the Roman Republic as an ideal was not simply for the unification of the Italian people, the end goal was greatness and “Italian unity is merely a possible byproduct of the glorious, violent, and aggrandizing deeds” (200). This view of Machiavelli takes away the imperialistic goals he held for his republic. It…show more content…
This argues essentially that realism does less damage in an overall comparison. The “realism versus idealism” argument borrows from the “means to an end” interpretation, stressing that there is a strict dichotomy between realism and idealism. Hulliung argues that for Machiavelli, there was no separation of the two. He argues that it is a “theme running through Christian, liberal, and social thought” and has “been read into [Machiavelli’s] thought” (202). Modern scholarship and the scholarship of the high Renaissance are vastly different, though both western in thought. Regardless, this argument of realism versus idealism does not take into account any sort of multi-culturalism. An idealist organization may lend a hand and call for donations to a nation in need, thinking they are doing good but ultimately do next to nothing when they barely have money left over after paying taxes and fees and paying off any terrorist organizations that may stand in the way of their charity. A realist may shrug their shoulders and refuse to even humor the idea of helping a nation in need because they deem it not worth their time due to the likely consequences. Machiavelli also emphasized the glorious but violent means of achieving his ideal republic while “tearing away the Stoical and humanitarian masks hiding the power politics of Rome” (201). Through these actions, Machiavelli proves himself to be both a…show more content…
This “economy of violence” comes from the school of radical democrats. Violence is inevitable; therefore, the best course of action is to not be shy about it. Be quick and fierce about this violence, however. Half-measures eventually do more damage than necessary. An initial large surge of violence is all that is needed for an ultimately lower body count. Sheldon Wolin argues that this is an “economizing frame of mind” (202) that Machiavelli had in his comments on violence. However, Hulliung maintains that it is “in reality an aspect of the heroic code and its call for glorious action” (202). This calls back to the previous two interpretations of Machiavelli whose claims have been refuted with simply Machiavelli’s few for collective glory and virtu. The “economy of violence” was in actuality practiced by the “commercially-minded ruling class of Florence” (202). While Machiavelli believed that being deliberate and careful with the way violence was carried out was important, he also believed “unlimited conquest, growth, and aggrandizement [was] the objective” (202). He was not for the minimization of violence. He knew the inevitability of war and violence and it was vital for a growing, conquering republic. The Roman Republic had a fierce reputation and did not always have to use force. Once again, however, Machiavelli’s vision was for the collective good. There will always be a body count for the
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