NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI, JAMES BURNHAM AND SINGAPORE

It has been said the Lee Quan Yew’s Singapore is a city state built on the principles of Niccoló Machiavelli’s political science formulas. Below is a look at the great Italian’s conception of history in the view of the American theorist James Burnham (1905 – 1987):

1

”Political life, according to Machiavelli, is never static, but in continual change. There is no way of avoiding this change…The process of change is repetitive, and roughly cyclical. That is to say , the pattern of change occurs again and again in history (so that studying the past, we learn also about the present and future); and this pattern comprises a more or less recognizable cycle.”

James Burnham, Machiavellians – The Defenders of Freedom, first ed. 1943., p. 70.

2

”The recurring pattern of change expresses the more or less permanent core of human nature as it functions politically. The instability of all governments and political forms follows in part from the limitless human appetite for power.”

(pp. 71-72)

3

”Machiavelli assign a major function in political affairs to what he calls ’Fortune’…From the passages it becomes clear what Machiavelli means by ’Fortune’. Fortune is all those causes of historical change that are beyond the deliberate, rational control of men.”

(pp. 72-73)

4

”Machiavelli believes that religion is essential to the well-being of a state. In discussing religion, as in discussing human nature, Machiavelli confines himself to political function”.

(p. 75)

”What kind of government did Machiavelli think best?…Machiavelli’s writings, taken in their
entirety, leave no doubt about the answer. Machiavelli thinks that the best kind of government is a republic, what he called a ’commonwealth’…If a republic is the best form government, it does not follow that a republic is possible at every moment and for all things.”

(pp 77-78)

5

As protectors of liberty, Machiavelli has no confidence in individual men as such; driven by unlimited ambition, deceiving even themselves, they are always corrupted by power. But individuals can, to some extent and for a while, be disciplined within the established framework of wise laws. [If liberty is to be preserved] no person and no magistrate may be permitted to be above the law.”

(p.79)

6

”Liberty, then – not rhetorical liberty of an impossible and misconceived utopia, but such concrete liberty as is, when they are fortunate, within the grasp of real men, with their real limitations – is the dominant ideal of Machiavelli, and his final norm of judgement. Tyranny is liberty’s opposite, and no man has been a clearer foe of tyranny. No man clearer, and few more eloquent.”

(p. 81)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: