Thursday, December 19, 2013

Machiavelli, Marxism, and Maybe


The ideas of Niccolo Machiavelli -- a political philosopher of the 16th century -- is very useful. The approach is focused on the role of individuals as independent actors who have, create, and utilize political resources. This approach is quite different from the focus of Marx and his followers on the upheaval and class clash which greatly restrict or even deny the role of the individual as the cause of social change.

Machiavelli is a dirty word that can not be circumvented. The name is always associated with the sentence "purpose to justify the means".

But this Italian is also remembered for writing a book on political leadership for 500 years are discussed. He is not just a bleak sound. He did not formulate his thoughts as a theory. There's no metaphysics in his writing. There was no study of ethics. He departed from the experience - the long road that ended in failure. His book, Il Principe, which quickly completed in 1516 wrote in an old villa where he resigned, after he lost.

Three years earlier, he was a high official of the Republic of Florence, defeated in war and politics, losing office, and was arrested and tortured. After that, with his wife and four children he fled to San Casciano, 15 km to the southwest of Florence.

From here, the 'pamphlet' was born, which in Latin is called De prinsipatibus, (not in book form), in 1513. The longer descriptions was called Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio - an exposure of a history enthusiast who wanted to change his own times.

Il Principe is an analysis of power tips. When the 'political theory' previously gives guidance that a new political leader to use his/her power when accompanied by a valid moral straight, Il Principe does not. In this book, politic is a high skill to form, seize, retain, and strengthen the state, lo stato. Morality and religion is important only as long as it helps the purposes.

Church banned the book in 1559. Machiavelli did not expect much from religion. For him, religion, in this case Christianity, only exalting the meek and contemplative man, not the man who is acting. Whereas, in politics the most important thing is Virtu. Virtu means virility, but its meaning linked to the act of firmness, courage, agility, cunning - all attitude confirmed the need for power.

With Virtu, the human face and defeat their fate. Fortuna. Machiavelli made an analogy of Fortuna as 'destructive river', which when angry caused flooding. But the 'river',  Fortuna, could be tamed. With a misogynis language, Machiavelli likened Fortuna was woman' who needed to be punched and clubbed, so that she could be 'controlled.' With Virtu.

Machiavelli lived in the Renaissance which believed the humans as a measure of the universe. Not surprisingly, if with the concept of Virtu then he paved the way for the idea of ​​the 'subject' that characterize the modern world: the human as 'I' am not daunted by the magic of nature. With my mind, I tame the fate and world.

I think the idea of ​​solid subject is an assumption about the importance of "individual" in Machiavelli thought.  Individuals are "independent actors" who "have, create, and utilize political resources". But this premise is actually not too strong. "Individuals" as "independent actors" is an illusion. In Freudian psychoanalysis, it is no longer easy for people to talk about the "subject", "I" as something that is intact.

"I" actually is an expression of self imposed by language, conditioned by the symbolic order which confirmed the social structure, but ultimately still Myself can not fully be transparent.

In his psycho analysis, Lacan suggests that the subject is --forever-- is a "split" subject. It could be, an independent political "actor" is actually controlled by the construction of his own idol in the form of objects, systems, traditions, or religion. How much the "Free Will" in himself is still an issue.

And in the case of Machiavelli, I doubt that he believes the "Free Will" to include human nature. Maybe he was not even sure there were things that could be formulated as human nature. What he saw was a man who was not fully independent of Fortuna. "That fate", wrote Machiavelli, "Decides mostly what we do. We are only free to partly control." Indeed there is a 'free will', but it is the moment when we choose to act. Being in-willingness-free is not our nature.

Machiavelli himself was not fully put 'individual', aka the subject in a central position. His treatise, which in Latin is called De prinsipatibus (English: principalities), born of concern in establishing the territorial integrity of a state firm. Machiavelli wanted a strong Italian, which was not split into several political units; though he never sure whether he was a patriot.

If he is talking about the "King" in the same breath with 'his kingdom or ruler with la stato, it's because he lives with the rest of the memory to medieval times, when those two things fit together. People are fooled, do not see that Il Principe actually contains demands that must be met by King - including willing to ignore his personal moral values ​​for the sake of his duties as a leader. Individuals - including the King - only instrument for strengthening the state, lo stato. He splits as subject and as object.

Maybe that's why, in Discorsi, Machiavelli was not sure the Lord was a solid figure in the care of the Republic. The title of  chapter LXIII the first book: 'The people (la multitudino) are wiser and more constant than the king'. In the case of be careful and maintain stability, Machiavelli said , "il popolo ('people') have better judgment. It is not without reason if it is said that the voice of people is the voice of God, because, "he said, "The universal opinion seems produce the amazing things."

Of course Machiavelli was not a democrat type of the modern age . He did not intend to assert the people as the main buffer or even as Republican power source. But he did not also put the position of the leader as the sole source of power. There was an ongoing concern : Machiavelli alarming human ( including King ) who -- for him -- is not a good thing - will act destructively for state survival . Virtu can control it , but the law and the system depends on the leader.

In situations of concern, Machiavelli saw political life as antagonistic relationship, one thing which also later became the political theorists premise of the 20th century such as Schmitt , Laclau , and Mouffle. The state power grew out of the conflict and terror. When he suggested that a Republice needed to revitalize itself with back to basics, Machiavelli pointed out procedure - a kind of ritual - that was done by people in Firenze every five years since 1434-1494 : did ripigliare lo stato, repeated the state's enforcement, to evoke a sense of hesitant and fear  to the enemy) as early as in first. That is, for Machiavelli, the power is not coming from the design outside the history movement.

Maybe that's why Machiavelli once considered a 'precursor of materialism approach to history'. In Political Thought from Machiavelli to Stalin: Revolutionary Machiavellism, (Palgrave Macmillan: 2004), EE Rees cited the conclusion of encyclopedia about state law and published in the Soviet Union in 1925.

Of course it is not really accurate. Marx's view of history is more optimistic. For Machiavelli, human nature is the same. World is essentially unchanged. For Marx, the dialectic will give birth to a new world as place for free men.

Even so, there is common ground between Machiavelli and Marx. Both did not acknowledge the presence of any transcendental. No engineering from Sky or 'I' outside space and time.

Subjects and identity - both the King with his Virtu, il popolo (nation, people) with their desire for independence, or the proletariat by the action of their release - even seen from antagonism and political struggle. At its beginning, not the idea.

The difference is, Machiavelli -- from the Italian 16th century which full of political shocks -- is more sensitive to instability. Discorsi had many examples of the work of old historian Livio to indicate that the terror, without design, growth of state power circumstances at a time somewhere. Its embodiment is diverse, as the great variety of human conditions.

Marx also sees the human condition as a 'base' of the 'superstructure' in the form of political power. But from the 19th century -- which excited with the certainty of science (It offers 'Scientific Socialism', isn't it?), Marx is more confident that history leads to an emphatic end: free society, without suction and conflict.

We certainly are not so sure anymore. This era no longer believe science can not be wrong. After all, humans have experienced crisis hit the world many times under capitalism, but until the early 21st century socialism does not seem close. Thus, it is reasonable if people are more inclined to the uncertainty of Machiavelli.

It also seems to encourage a philosopher and faithful member of French Communist Party -- Althusser -- wrote a 100-page treatise: Machiavel et Nous, which was published after he died at the age of 72 in 1990.

Mikko Lahtinen explained by the perceptive about development of this leading Marxist thinker in Politics and Philosophy: Niccolo Machiavelli and Louis Althusser's Aleatory Materialsm (Koninklijke Brill NV: 2009) - one of my sources for this monograph.

For Althusser, Machiavelli is 'the greatest materialist thinker in history'. But the 'materialism' of his
almost entirely shaped by political praxis, as a result of a struggle with the current situation, thoughts that follow the legs keep moving on the ground. It is a materialism that is not a system of philosophy, and therefore, different from the Marxism, does not explain where it goes.

Althusser calls it matérialisme aléatoire. The root of this word, Alea (Latin) means dice. This materialism is based on the notion of the 'material' which does not push themselves to a form, a kind of basic of the world's life that does not lead to a single system. The form and the system will come from the outside - but it comes as the dice thrown to empty space (vuoto). All is possible.

There is always raging antagonism, competition authority for giving shape, especially between the domineering and those who do not agree to be mastered. And in the empty space that can be filled with various 'Maybe', there is no single group that will surely win  or can claim the right to win. There is no authority to decide. The door is open. A democratic political movement will always impose itself. Form of power that is born will not be able to circumvent it, because it is only one of many possibilities. Including 'liberal democracy', it is not a cover for the different possibilities. Thus, the tension of democracy is not between 'individual' and 'collectivity', but the tension to face 'Maybe': tension to fill it by sticking to the truth that is accepted as an effective (Machiavelli: cosa della Verita effettuale) but also hold on to the ideals of a world without oppression, such as what is desired by Karl Marx.
***
(CZ-lacaliufusa121513)

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CZ

"Thank you for your perception! I like your romantic side, even if I do not always comment and I'm glad that you're in my circle of friends."
(Courtesies by: Wolfgang A. Gerhardt)

Wolfgang A.Gerhardt : May be you like this Sunday collage

Cisca Zarmansyah : Before today, there never was a person doing this to me. You create a simple matter to look special. This is a special thing for me.

Cisca Zarmansyah : Thank you. I love it. I love you, my friend.

CieL- FreYa Ceastle : Hmm, he's so nice...















"I am me.
In all the world,
there is no one else exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me
is authentically mine,
because I alone chose it --
I own everything about me:
my body,
my feelings,
my mouth,
my voice,
all my actions,
whether they be to others or myself.
I own my fantasies,
my dreams,
my hopes,
my fears.
I own my triumphs and successes,
all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me,
I can become intimately acquainted with me.
By so doing,
I can love me
and be friendly with all my parts.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know
-- but as long as I am friendly
and loving to myself,
I can courageously and hopefully
look for solutions
to the puzzles and ways
to find out more about me.
However I look and sound,
whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time
is authentically me.
If later some parts of how I looked,
sounded,
thought,
and felt
turn out to be unfitting,
I can discard that which is unfitting,
keep the rest,
and invent something new
for that which I discarded.
I can see,
hear,
feel,
think,
say, and do.
I have the tools to survive,
to be close to others,
to be productive,
and to make sense
and order out of the world of people
and things outside of me.
I own me,
and therefore,
I can engineer me.
I am me,
and I am okay."

VIRGINIA SATIR
(American Phychologist and Educator, 1916-1988)