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Publisher's Summary

This classic work of political theory and practice offers an account of the modern Machiavellians, a remarkable group who have been influential in Europe and practically unknown in the United States. The book devotes a long section to Machiavelli himself as well as to such modern Machiavellians as Gaetano Mosca, Georges Sorel, Robert Michels and Vilfredo Pareto. Burnham contends that the writings of these men hold the key both to the truth about politics and to the preservation of political liberty.
©1943 James Burnham (P)1998 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Burnham is the greatest political analyst of our century and this is his best book." ( National Review, 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century)

What listeners say about The Machiavellians

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Fine intro to an authentic science of politics

The "Machiavellian" writers Burnham discusses span a rather diverse spectrum of views. What they have in common is an objective, scientific approach to politics that avoids allowing wishful thinking, or ideas about what ought to be, to impede their discernment of the way things actually are.

I disagreed with Burnham's tendency to dismiss religious ideas as inherently irrationalist. Also, his attempt at clarification in response to Machiavelli's reputation ignores the fact that Machiavelli did, after all, offer some amoral advice, not just non-moral analysis. While some of Burnhams predictions proved correct only in the short run, his method contains within itself the the capacity for self-correction, which is part of the whole point of the book.

This book remains invaluable for all who seek to develop a scientific understanding of politics, regardless of their philosophical persuasion.

15 people found this helpful

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Serious political science

The narration could drone, but the content was excellent. Many sections worth re-listening to and bookmarking. Filled with political myth busting and strategies and structures for preserving liberty in the real world.

4 people found this helpful

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My expectations were too high obviously

I took this book for face value on just the title of it alone. My first thoughts, and expectations was that this should be interesting, I'm aware of Niccolo Machiavelli, and his book, "The Prince", and I'm really familiar with the personality trait of "Machiavellianism". It's 1 of 3 personality traits which is part of the "Dark Triad", the other two are narcissism and psychopathy. Now I will say that I wasn't expecting this book to be geared towards the area of psychology or anything to do with the other two traits that have to do with the Dark Triad, not at all. I was expecting it to be purely history and political, and hoping at the same time to hear about like the title of the book states, "The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom". I was expecting to hear in depth both personally at times and politically about individuals both of the past of course and maybe some at the present time. Methodologies and occurrences of what all took place at times during these Machiavellians' lifetimes. Wow! this book had none of this in detail, not even close to it. At times it was just playing in the background and the narrator was rambling on about God know what, it seemed that many a times he went beyond the subject of Machiavellianism. Don't ask to where because I have no clue. There were a few individuals that he had brought up but nothing at all in detail when it came to Machiavellianism. You will hear words such as Elite(s), Alite(s), Democracy, a free democratic democracy, residue 1 and residue 2 (don't even ask me what he was referring to then, no clue at all), now, did he go into details in regards to Machiavellianism with any of this stuff, absolutely not, NO. In the beginning he did cover over a little about Niccolo Machiavelli and his book, "The Prince" but in detail, NO, not at all. He mentioned him in a few other places at times, he also discussed Dante's Inferno. If your expecting to hear an in depth story of people who were considered to be like the title of the book states, "The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom", forget it. You won't even skim any surface whatsoever. Most of the time it sounded like someone with a head full of knowledge of stuff to do with politics, but nothing to do really with the politics of the past or the present. I wouldn't say that I was bored with it, I was just waiting and hoping to hear a more in depth look into certain individuals of the past that had to with the personality trait of Machiavellianism, NOPE, NATTA! Now, could I have sat down and over time physically have read this book, absolutely not, no way, NOOOOO. I wouldn't have even gotten close to the middle of it, would I listen to it again, why would I, because to me it didn't have really anything to do with what the title mentions. You could ask, "Well then what did it have to do with then?!" Beats the heck outta me, I was hanging on for it to go a different direction, but it never did. If you want to know anything of what the title says, go and look for it yourself, definitely not here though. A part of me wants to say it was a boring listen, but maybe its just because the whole time I was thinking, "This guy has got to go a different direction with this than whatever he's talking about right now", but he didn't. I was anticipating and hanging on for a more detailed accounts of people and Machiavellianism, but it never came. Bottom Line: It was all a pointless waste of time. Did I learn anything new at all, NO, not one single thing. If you want to know ANYTHING about who or what about Machiavellianism, DO NOT, go here, you won't find it.

*Posted on "goodreads"

2 people found this helpful

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Insightful and predictive

In brief, this book offers a scientific (i e. falsifiable) analysis of politics. it's conclusions and predictions have held up well in the 80 years since it's publication. If there is a quibble, it's over the audio production, which is clearly a transfer from tape. there are a few volume and stitching issues that are jarring when they infrequently happen, but other than that it's easy to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

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Vry Insightful

An honest and realistic investigation of political science. Well narrated. A must read for all serious political philosophy students.

1 person found this helpful

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not too bad

not too bad. contains strawmanned explanations of anarchy but that can be forgiven due to the time it was written.

and you also can't hold against the book the low calibre of the people who have recently come to form their outlook over surface lvl understanding and application of the strategies and views it explores. (post-libs etc)

just like you can't hold against the art of war or the book of 5 rings etc the ramblings of some businessmen who thinks having a book on their shelf amounts to having a personality.

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Best short description of how politics actually works

“[Gaetano] Mosca argues that majority rule, without which democracy cannot exist, is literally impossible. In every society, regardless of its political form, an organized minority constitutes the actual ruling class. It rules by myths that unify society and facilitate the acquisition of the habits that keep the ruled in their accustomed grooves of behavior. In times of stress when the ruled see through the myths and become restive, the rulers fall back on fraud to retain their power. If the fraud is no longer accepted and resistance begins, the rulers resort to naked force. [Vilfredo] Pareto argues that if the ruled revolt and succeed in overthrowing their rulers, it is not the people who come to power but the leaders of the people, a new elite replacing an old elite. Revolutions in effect are a circulation of elites into and out of power. Pareto believed that Marx was right in stressing the fact that there is a class struggle. He was wrong in believing it would ever end. As soon as the workers overthrow the capitalists, a new class, a new minority, whether of bureaucrats, intellectuals, commissars, or what not, come to power and enjoy the privileges of power. In this sense, the class struggle is sure to endure forever.”

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I'd listen again

I don't necessarily agree, but this has good detail and its worth listening to again.

the book is from before the computer and internet age

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Terrible narrator

Droned on and on, no intonation. Loud breathing between sentences. Obviously people have to breathe but the mixers on other titles do a better job of eliminating the sound. Narrator definitely ruined this for me.

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An important read/listen, especially if you’re young

This book, despite the historical context of when it was written, and despite some of the incendiary views of its author, provides anachronistic truths about the nature of governance and politics in human culture.

If you are young, you’re liable to be permeated with your family or social circle’s more extreme political ideals without considering what is realistic or fallacious, attainable or unachievable in those political views; be it conservative or liberal.

Listen to this book, and consider the pragmatic realities of the world. Parse out what is inhibitive in any political viewpoint where you reside. Do your best to learn from history.

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  • elvijs
  • 09-20-21

society and politics

Great Book !
It does really put politics's and society's relationship in comprehensible perspective for a average human being.
This book should be read in high school before 18 or before someone is allowed to vote.
Thank you.

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  • Sean Larkin
  • 03-24-21

A real grind but worth it

I will need to return to the book again in the future as it's a lot to take in, still digesting some of the information a day on. I'm coming away from the book enlightened some what but really need to research parts myself.
Definitely worth the listen especially if you are interested in politics.

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  • Alex Kaschuta
  • 07-06-20

Most important book on politics

Absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the nature of the political animal and how the world actually works.

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  • Emir
  • 03-01-21

A Must Read

Possibly the most important book to read today. Largely due to it shining light on the great thinker Niccolo Machiavelli and his political tradition. Not enough has been said about the truth discovered by this man. People are openly rejecting Machiavellism because it is the definition of a Red Pill and maybe even a Black Pill, that is to say it is a very inconvenient but absolute truth. I actually wish there was a simpler and more concise book which showed this but this seems to be the best one in the modern day