Boethius Book Club, Episode 7: Machiavelli’s Discourse

This month’s selection is book I of Machiavelli’s Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius. If you think this title refers to a dry academic commentary on an ancient historian, think again. Machiavelli is one of the most brilliant and original political thinkers in human history, and this is his by far best work. I first read it at the suggestion of (or rather under orders from) my friend Sam Francis, who (like James Burnham and other political analysts) viewed it as the political equivalent of sacred writ. Machiavelli takes the first ten books of Livy’s History of Rome as a backdrop, but he talks as much about the Italian and European history of his own time as he does of ancient Rome. Some knowledge of Livy’s stories is helpful, but several of the translations have sufficient notes, if you have forgotten about Tarquin the Proud and Brutus the liberator.

The most useful edition is the Oxford paperback for under $10 on Amazon, with a Kindle version at $7.55. There are other good translations at lower prices, including Kindle editions of all his political works for $.99.

This should be an exciting discussion, one that can draw in some observations and conclusions about the American political system and the current electioneering.

Recorded: March 29, 2016
Original Air Date: August 10, 2016
Show Run Time: 1 hour 13 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): James Easton


Boethius Book Club℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2016. All Rights are Reserved.


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3 Responses

  1. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Dr. Fleming:
    This Discussion is a real keeper. I know I will want to refer back to this podcast many times in the future. You really capture the importance of the Discourses, a book that seems almost like it’s been purposely hidden from us (the great books lists always make it seem as if “The Prince” is the only book Machiavelli wrote). Moreover, you show us how virtuous a man Machiavelli was, his Christian imagination, his bent for a lasting Republic. From the modern mindset, you would almost have to conclude that he was the devil incarnate. In any case, a great discussion. I have this on my Kindle, but have ordered a real paper edition (hoping for the Berlusconi bonus).

    I was delighted to hear you mention Burnham and his book. I’d meant to tell you that I’d been listening to “The Machiavellians” on CD during my commute. Interesting thing: Used book editions from Amazon are rare and prohibitively expensive. The unabridged CD recording is available for $9.99 new. I am halfway through it for a second time. I know that Burnham was a real guiding light for Sam Francis. Can you comment on his book “The Managerial Revolution?” I read it once. Not sure I took it all in, but my dim understanding of it, as it is, very much squares with what I see of the world. How else to explain the wonkery of the Clinton ilk, the justification of GOP state capitalists since Lincoln. Heck, since Hamilton. This is one reason why I always blanch when some putative conservative co-workers tells me, “what we need is a good businessman to be president, someone who would run the country like a corporation.” I have heard this many times in the world in which I live, constantly navigating the shoals and reefs and quicksand of the average Fox News watcher. Of course, these people have more in mind an M&A vampire like Mitt Romney much more so than a builder like Trump. The idea of Romney (let alone McCain) with the US military and the Federal Reserve, well, we’re talking about real destruction, and not of the creative sort.

  2. Bagby says:

    I especially enjoyed this discussion. The Discourses merit several nights of discussion and analysis. Would you consider revisiting them? Next time, leave your tape recorder running.

  3. Allen Wilson says:

    Dr. Fleming,, after around ten years of listening to podcasts of all sorts on numerous subjects, and other downloadable audio, as well as audio-books, I have listened to individual audio files likely numbering into the thousands. Your two episodes on Boethius’ Consolation and Machiavelli’s Discourse have to be the most profound individual episodes I have ever heard.