Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Radasanu, Andrea M., 1973-

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Political science; Philosophy


In this dissertation, I focus on the role of the people in Machiavelli's political thought. Throughout the Discourses, Machiavelli advocates for an increased political role for the people, and the extension of citizenship to the lower classes. The ancient city found greatness by empowering the plebs against the nobles, until the balance of the humors was disrupted as the plebs took on an increasing amount of political power. In modernity, Rome has succumbed to corruption, as human nature is inherently self-interested and the city is no longer able to inculcate any sort of virtue. As a solution, Machiavelli envisions a strong plebeian class to protect itself against the grandi, but more importantly to aid in the institutional greatness of the city. This expansion of the people's place in the modern city requires a reassessment of the other components of modern politics, particularly the value of an aristocracy and the need for an executive. Machiavelli's modern grandi sheds all titles of nobility as a means to alleviate the potential for corruption, as a landed nobility is more likely to draw politics into the private realm in order to reap partisan benefit. Executive power is expanded as the executive belongs neither to the plebeian nor patrician class, and is thus in a good position to facilitate the political process. The modern city must reestablish political institutions in such a way as to connect self-interested human nature to the good of the city, and to dispel the damaging effects of corruption. All of this is evidence of Machiavelli's proto-liberalism, and his desire to move away from the classical republican tradition. However, while Machiavelli anticipates several strands of liberal political thought, his concerns for the trajectory of Rome suggest grave misgivings regarding the abandonment of greatness in favor of government predicated on self-interest. In the absence of republican virtue, the city must find some other motive to connect the well-being of the people to the city itself. Without this connection, self-interested individuals are likely to resort to partisanship and corruption to further their own welfare at the expense of greatness. Ultimately, Machiavelli's modern reestablishment of political institutions allows him to reconcile greatness and self-interest, rejecting the need for civic virtue in modernity.


Advisors: Andrea M. Radasanu.||Committee members: Larry Arnhart; John P. McCormick; Scot Schraufnagel.||Includes bibliographical references.


iii, 196 pages




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