Review of Machiavelli in Hell

Review of Machiavelli in Hell, by Sebastian de Grazia, and The Machiavellian Cosmos, by Anthony J. Parel, American Political Science Review, vol. 87 (1993): 764-65.


Here are two books on Machiavelli of unusual distinction, composed by authors who have spent a good portion of their lives in loving study of a great man whom they need to understand and so do not wish to deconstruct. The wisdom resulting from their devotion reminds one of Machiavelli’s recommendation that the hunter become a knower of sites by knowing one site well, for they show just how much political science can be learned from one solitary source if only it is chosen and examined well. Their scholarship might be thought narrow by political scientists, derivative and submissive by political theorists; but in a competition before impartial judges for who teaches the most about politics, these two would quiet such critics and easily vindicate their choice of subject and method. Yet their books are as different as plot and theme.

Sebastian de Grazia has done the trick that is the dream of all of us in the profession, whether we admit it or not: he has produced a serious book for the general reader. His intellectual biography of Machiavelli (which won and deserved a Pultizer prize) …