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John P. McCormick
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL 60637-5418)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2017 – 6/30/2018

The People’s Princes: Machiavelli, Leadership and Liberty

A book-length study of Machiavelli’s concept of political leadership.

"The People’s Princes: Machiavelli, Leadership and Liberty" argues that Machiavelli, commonly considered a cynical adviser of tyrants, formulated a conception of leadership uniquely facilitating of democracy and the “free way of life.” My project draws on Machiavelli’s cases from Roman and Florentine history, and delineates his literary-rhetorical method of “political exemplarity” to accentuate the interactions between leaders and citizens that he considered indispensible for healthy democratic politics. Moreover, I highlight the relevance of Machiavelli’s thoughts on leadership for our age when democracy is challenged by economic inequality, oligarchic encroachment, failures of political representation and accountability and the rise of populism. Unlike previous interpreters, I show that Machiavelli advises democratic leaders and citizens to diligently pursue policies aimed at thwarting the efforts of socio-economic elites to oppress the people and violate the common good.