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Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014

On Machiavelli: The Search for Glory (Liveright), by Alan Ryan

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Machiavelli is the world’s most famous political theorist, referenced by millions who have never read one word by the disgruntled 16th-century Florentine bureaucrat. In On Machiavelli, Oxford University’s Alan Ryan prefaces the author’s key texts with a compact primer on the man and his troubled times. According to Ryan, Machiavelli saw into the naked reality of power (surrounded by a bodyguard of deception) at the heart of any political system. Machiavelli’s goal for a good ruler was to diminish “the amount of random, unpredictable, pointless violence and cruelty that we have to suffer”—even if that means administering measured doses of violence and cruelty.