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Machiavelli in Context | [The Great Courses]

Machiavelli in Context

Mention the name Niccolò Machiavelli and you might unleash a powerful response-even among people who have never read a word of his writing. The word "Machiavellian" conjures up images of an indistinct figure quietly making his way through the darkest corridors of power; a cold-blooded political liar; or a coolly practical leader - amoral at best - willing to do whatever is necessary in a world governed not by ideas of right or wrong, but by solutions dictated by realpolitik.
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Publisher's Summary

Mention the name Niccolò Machiavelli and you might unleash a powerful response - even among people who have never read a word of his writing. The word "Machiavellian" conjures up images of an indistinct figure quietly making his way through the darkest corridors of power; a cold-blooded political liar; or a coolly practical leader - amoral at best - willing to do whatever is necessary in a world governed not by ideas of right or wrong, but by solutions dictated by realpolitik.

But do these images bear any actual resemblance to the Machiavelli who lived, pondered, and wrote? In these 24 enlightening lectures, Professor Cook offers the opportunity to meet an extraordinarily thoughtful and sincere student of history and its lessons. You'll look beyond the sinister interpretations or caricatures of his writings and beliefs and get at the truth of this important Renaissance figure.

You'll discover, perhaps surprisingly, that Machiavelli believed in the superiority of a republican form of government; he wanted to live in a free and equal participatory society and influenced the development of institutions and values both in Europe and in America.

With a focus on The Prince, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, and, more briefly, his Florentine Histories, Professor Cook moves easily among the different disciplines so pertinent to an understanding of Machiavelli's ideas, including history, philosophy, government, and the elements of leadership. The result is a thorough grounding in the information one needs to understand and appreciate this stunningly original thinker.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Saud 05-01-14
    Saud 05-01-14

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Profound"

    Don't dismiss the man because of the popular perception. This is a fundamental course for anybody remotely interested in history and/or leadership of any kind. Something for the ages.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret DURHAM, NC, United States 12-13-13
    Margaret DURHAM, NC, United States 12-13-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Great series, just not for my purposes"

    I have a dilemma when evaluating the Machiavelli in Context series: the content is fantastic, but the delivery verges into repetitive. I've found this problem to be endemic in The Great Courses books that I've bought; the lecturer tells you something interesting, then rephrases it several times, with decreasing levels of subtlety.

    I listen to audio books when I run, to help the miles go by faster, and really wanted to love Machiavelli in Context. I've gotten a lot out of the book, so hopefully I'll have time to finish the lecture series. In the meanwhile, the pace is just too slow.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Caruthers Notre Dame, IN 07-20-15
    B. Caruthers Notre Dame, IN 07-20-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Great Lecture. A must listen to in my opinion."

    Professor Cook does a great job of explaining who Machiavelli is, what is thought and wrote and why it is important. Most if my background has been on Asian history and literature and so I was worried I would not have the necessary background to get the most out of this lecture, but it is presented in a way that a beginner or someone more versed in the period or thought can get all they want out of it.

    The lectures are really well done and very thought provoking.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mc2 Monument, CO, US 06-14-15
    mc2 Monument, CO, US 06-14-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Wow!! Machiavelli - Refreshing and Contrarian"

    A great Course!!!
    One of my favorites.
    If you have an interest in political philosophy and political histories, you will find this eye opening!!

    Everyone has heard Machiavellian to describe less than moral approaches to a given situation.

    This course puts it in context.

    Machiavelli disagreed with Cicero and Aristotle on the theory of rule. Instead, Machiavelli focused on what Princes did throughout history critiquing what worked and what did not work and why.

    The real treasure was the Discourses on Livy and the analysis of the Roman republic. His insights are deep. I have found myself applying what Machiavelli has taught me to situations that we see today.

    What I found surprising is that Machiavelli concluded that the best form of government is the republic and NOT a principality.

    The presentation and story are excellent. Dr Cook is very enthusiastic and has a clear mastery of the subject material

    I have listened to this twice and have ordered my own translation on the Discourses on Livy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marion Royse City, TX, USA 06-03-15
    Marion Royse City, TX, USA 06-03-15 Member Since 2009
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    "Great course!"

    Professor was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. I enjoyed the course immensely.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan Mattson 04-06-15
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    "Only complaint - too short"

    I wish it was longer, I would have liked an even more in depth discussion about Machiavelli. I think - especially in current times - he is routinely criticized and not taught effectively because his theories are not always understood in a very "politically correct" context. I remember in my western civ class in high school where Machiavelli was boiled down to the phrase "the ends justify the means." A travesty to boil down his writings and his ideas into such a simplified excuse for excess brutality in the name of power for power’s sake.

    I love how the material was presented, maybe the background about the man was a little overdone for my taste, but I also think it does a good job to understand the context of his writings. I wish his political ideas and theories had been covered more, including mentioning more of his ideas and going into deeper depth of some of the material that was covered.

    But overall, what was covered was great. It just leaves me wanting more and I guess one of these days I will have to finally read the discourses instead of just reading the prince every couple of years.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Hasan Abdulla
    2/17/15
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    "Intro to Machiavelli"

    Wonderful!! All one needs to know about the brilliant thinker is here.
    I recommend this to anyone and everyone who buys this audiobook

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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