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Pocock and Machiavelli: Structuralist Explanation in History

Geerken, John H.

Journal of the History of Philosophy, Volume 17, Number 3, July 1979, pp. 309-318 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/hph.2008.0555

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Notes and Discussions

POCOCK AND MACHIAVELLI: STRUCTURALIST EXPLANATION IN HISTORY I. It has been four years since the publication o f Pocock's Machiavellian Moment,' and the intervening period has seen the book attract sufficient attention to earn it the status of required reading in the field of early modern European and American political theory. Although a good deal has been said about the book, 2 one is struck by what has not at all been said as y e t - v i z . , that it deploys a structuralist methodology to interpret Machiavelli and the tradition of republican thought. J The book's structuralism is announced by the title. At first glance the notion of a "Machiavellian m o m e n t " might well invoke the idea of a ruling group or individual making a political decision of doubtful m o r a l i t y - a Machiavellian decision, grounded in raison d'dtat, that deliberately subordinated all means to the overriding end of maintaining political power; that countenanced, even required political duplicity; or that sanctioned the strategic use of cruelty for political purposes. Alternatively, the title could refer to the brief period in Florentine history, between 1498 and 1512, when Machiavelli vigorously pursued a career as Chancery S e c r e t a r y - a career, one might argue in light of this book's emphasis, in which the Florentine fused theory (with its universalizing properties) with practice (in all its particularities), in which he discovered that the universal cannot be separated from nor exhausted in any of its particulars, that the lessons contained in particular events go beyond those particular events, and that one case can be seen as analogous to another by virtue of our capacity to perceive in the model event a general lesson not reducible to an abstract rule. Still another possibility lies in the view that the Machiavellian moment refers to an application of the principle that since things are not what they appear to be, Machiavelli's own works (or some of them) contain commentary on Florentine affairs disguised as reflections on Roman history. But none of these interpretations truly explains the title. The term " m o m e n t " derives rather from Pocock's concern with synchronic as opposed to diachronic structures of thought, with structures of relationships across moments in time instead of development or evolution through time. Accordingly, the Machiavellian moment is something determined by a network of existing structural relations, not by any historical process (of which there is relatively little discussion for a book so

I wish to thank Fredi Chiappelli and Joe Slavin for their helpful reading of an earlier draft of this paper. ' J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975). 2 The most important review-discussions are those by J. H. Burns in English Historical Review 92 0977) : 137-42; Felix Gilbert in the Times Literary Supplement, 19 March 1976, pp. 306-8; J. H. Hexter in History and Theory 16, 3 (1977):306-37; and Cesare Vasoli in Journal o f Modern History 49 0977): 661-70. 3 For an earlier, though very brief, treatment of Machiavelli from a structuralist viewpoint, see Roland Barthes, "Historical Discourse," in Michael Lane, ed., Introduction to Structuralism (New York: Basic Books, 1970), pp. 145-55.




apparently freighted with history)." Indeed, the Machiavellian m o m e n t is but one, though the most important one, of a host of " m o m e n t s " : Savonarolan, Rousseauian, dialectical and apocalyptic, beside moments of acute particularity, of providential judgment, of reason of state and salus populi, of conscience and appeal to heaven; moments of nature and of the sword, of the imminent true millenium, of fortune and reason, and of grace and renovation. It is not always easy to isolate and define these moments, to keep them in some kind of equilibrium, and to j u m p back and forth a m o n g them as one proceeds through the b o o k . But their very presence as such underscores P o c o c k ' s declaration (p. vii) that this is " n o t a history of political thought whatever that might b e " ; nor is it " a history of the political experience of Florence." On page 157 Pocock will remind us that a formal and analytical approach such as his must be limited to its own methodology and that there are aspects of Machiavelli's thought with which he will not deal. The selectivity of the enterprise, he writes again (p. 183), " d o e s not commit us to interpreting the totality of [Machiavelli's] thought or the totality of its d e v e l o p m e n t . " Much in recent Machiavelli scholarship, in fact, he has admittedly ignored (p. 183). These are important warnings, easily forgotten in so massive a book: " T h e ' m o m e n t ' in question is selectively and thematically defined" (p. vii). We are not dealing with conventional intellectual or political history, or with the Rankean Ding an sich, but with a highly specialized construct and problem of the author's definition and making. If " m o m e n t " is the name of a conceptual structure, then, the Machiavellian m o m e n t refers to " t h e moment, and the manner, in which Machiavellian thought made its a p p e a r a n c e " (p. vii), that is, in and after 1513, in The Prince and The Discourses, and certain other works of Machiavelli's contemporaries. Pocock asserts that "certain enduring patterns [or structures] in the temporal consciousness of medieval and early modern Europeans led to the presentation of the republic, and the citizen's participation in it, as constituting a problem in historical Self-unders t a n d i n g . . . " (pp. vii-viii). The struggle of Machiavelli and his contemporaries with this problem constitutes one aspect of this " m o m e n t . " Yet the Machiavellian moment refers to more than a struggle in Florentine history; it is also a way of classifying the general intellectual problem itself. In this sense it is " a name for the m o m e n t in conceptualized time in which the republic was seen as confronting its own temporal finitude, as attempting to remain morally and politically stable in a stream of irrational events conceived as essentially destructive of all systems of secular stability" (p. viii). And finally, because it is a general intellectual problem, the Machiavellian moment is seen somewhat more diachronically to have had its own "continuing history, in the sense that secular political self-consciousness continued to pose problems in historical self-awareness, which form part of the journey of Western thought from the medieval Christian to the m o d e r n historical m o d e " (p. viii). The Machiavellian m o m e n t thus entails not only the particularity of one aspect of the thought of Machiavelli and his contemporaries within their unique historical context, but also the more universal p h e n o m e n o n of all republican self' Cf. Lane, p. 17: "Structuralism is rather atemporal than strictly ahistorical." "Structuralism is effectively anticausal. The language of structuralist analysis in its pure form makes no use of the notions of cause and effect. . . .



understanding in time, politics, and history. Because of this universality, Pocock can see a Machiavellian m o m e n t in the eighteenth century as well as one in the sixteenth century (p. 486); presumably, too, he could identify yet others in any century in which the question is raised of the republic's survival in space-time devoid of transcendent values. Two structuralist premises sustain the conception of the Machiavellian moment thus defined: first, " t h a t the revival of the republican ideal by civic humanists posed the problem of a society, in which the political nature of man as described by Aristotle was to receive its fulfillment, seeking to exist in the framework of a Christian time-scheme which denied the possibility of any secularfulfillrnent" (p. vii, emphasis added); second, that " t h e European intellect of this period was possessed of a limited number of ways of rendering secular time [and secular phenomena] intellig i b l e . . . " (pp. vii, 84), and that any discussion of the problem of the republic's existence had to be dealt with " b y these means and no o t h e r s " (p. viii). Assent to the second premise is not especially problematic, but assent to the first immediately reminds us that we are here not dealing with conventional history. In explaining the relationship between Christianity and Aristotle, or in dealing with the possibility of secular fulfillment, for example, traditional intellectual history would require some accounting of the Thomistic synthesis of Christian and Aristotelian world-views; it would further require some accounting of Dante's conception of fulfillment or beatitude, which includes the idea of two (quasi-imperfect) beatitudes pertaining to this life; finally, it would require some consideration of T h o m a s More's Utopia as a blueprint for "secular fulfillment. ''5 But the thematic and selective definition of the Machiavellian m o m e n t , freighted as it is with Aristotle, precludes anything so Platonic as Utopia or so residually Augustinian as D a n t e ' s De Monarchia, even if these, too, address the problem of m a n ' s political fulfillment in time. II. But it is not only Pocock's concern for " m o m e n t s " that constitutes the b o o k ' s structuralism; it is also the presence of an extraordinary amount of linguistic activity. There are dialogues, debates, and traditions of debate; there are numerous v o c a b u l a r i e s - o f citizenship, of humanism, of civic h u m a n i s m , subphilosophical and subrational; there are "secondary vocabularies of symbolization"; there is commonwealth terminology and frontier rhetoric, republican language and Caesarian language, teleological language and the language of reformatio, a language of function, and of virtue, of practice, myth, metahistory, jeremiad, and eschatology; there are radical languages and sublanguages; there is m o v e m e n t from one language to another; there is the conflation of languages; and, finally, the three languages of particularity provided by P o c o c k ' s model. T o hold these languages together, Pocock assembles conceptual structures whose virtually algebraic transformations he will chart in the course of the book. For example, the conflict between Boethian (contemplative) virtue and fortuna (fate) becomes that of active, civic virt~ and fortuna (unknown cause), and then that of virt~ and corruption. The identification of ' Cf. Utopia, bk. 2: "[The Utopians] have adopted such institutions of life as have laid the foundations of the commonwealth (Reipublicaefundamenta) not only most happily, but also to last forever (aeternum duratura), as far as human prescience can forecast" (The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, ed. Edward Surtz, S.J. and J. H. Hexter (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1965), 4:245, I1. 5-9.



corruption with patronage is transformed into corruption as credit, stock-jobbing, and faction. Fortuna becomes credit; Machiavelli's armed citizen becomes Montesqueiu's homo mercator; virt~ as the principle of innovation and expansion becomes the virtt~ of American commerce, credit, and frontiersmanship; classical corruption merges into modern alienation; Machiavelli becomes Rousseau (i.e., " R o u s s e a u was the Machiavelli of the eighteenth c e n t u r y , " p. 504); H a m i l t o n ' s eighteenth-century imperial government becomes Eisenhower's "military-industrial c o m p l e x " in the twentieth (p. 5 4 3 ) - a n d so on. In the aggregate such transformations may leave the reader reeling and the historian wondering until we again remind ourselves that this is not conventional h i s t o r y - w h i c h would explain, for example, the status in the early Renaissance of such concepts as commerce and credit, which appear in Pocock's account only late and in the English and American stages of transformation. Structuralism's "laws of t r a n s f o r m a t i o n " have displaced the causal explanations of conventional history.' Nevertheless, the emphasis on the underlying formal relationships within and among structures is instructive, for it points to still another dimension of structural explanation, viz., its holism. The elements that make up P o c o c k ' s models possess meaning only in terms of the relationships of those elements to one another, only in terms of their mutual interdependence. Moreover, these relationships tend to be reduced to one of binary opposition, characterized by the liberal use throughout the book of the language of antithesis and polarity. ~ Thus, the universal is opposed to the particular, the hierarchical principle to the egalitarian principle, usage and custom to time and history, contemplative virtue to active virtt~, law and order to illegitimacy and instability, hereditary prince to new prince, regnum to polis, descending power to checks and balances, subject to citizen. !II. In the conceptual apparatus that Pocock constructs for the late Middle Ages, these elements are interrelated as follows: time (or history) was seen to have no a u t o n o m o u s value or meaning. For Christianity it was significant only in subordination to eschatology. Indeed, time and history were not even thought of as such, but in medieval terms of usage, experience, and custom, prophecy, providence, and grace, fortune, virtue, and fate. The sequence of temporal p h e n o m e n a displayed only the chaos of uncontrolled contingency; therefore, no meaning was to be derived from the temporal plane unless its seemingly random particulars could be in some way hierarchically coordinated with the m o r e intelligible and ultimately rational universals. If reality consisted in universals, however, how could anything universal and thus transcendent exist in secular particularity? In eschatological terms, how were secular and sacred events to be related? Thus formulated, these were the central epistemological questions. The correlative political construct, however, was no less significant: m o n a r c h y as a political form was seen to imitate the organization of nature under God; therefore, Cf. Lane, p. 17: "[Structuralisml rejects this conceptualization lof cause and effectl.., in favour of 'laws of transformation'. By these are meant the law-like regularities that can be observed, or derived from observation, by which one particular structural configuration changes into another." ' Ibid. in Pocock's book, as in structuralism generally, these binary opposites are not logical ones so much as perceived ones within specific contexts.



it was universal, outside of time, immune from the caprices offortuna, time's governess. In sum, monarchies were stable. Republics, on the other hand, were seen to be unnatural phenomena, particulars, existing within time and inescapably subject to contingency in all its meaninglessness. They were examples of Aristotelian forms in that they emerged, they developed to fulfillment, and then they ceased to be. Republics, according to this construct, were inevitably " s e l f - d o o m e d . " Against this conceptual background, the revival by early Renaissance thinkers of the republican ideal posed a fundamental problem: how to justify the time-bound polis vis-/l-vis a world-view that located value outside of time and in monarchy. This was a problem with one overriding consequence: it inaugurated a process, central to Pocock's study, whereby the Christian world-view, which denied to time (or the saeculum) any ultimate meaning, was displaced by a temporal and secular Weltanschauung, which did not. Here, one might note, is the beginning of modern historicism; indeed, here is the quintessential Machiavellian moment. It is of great consequence that the shift in political understanding from the imperialist, monarchical, universal paradigm of Dante to the republican, civic, particularist, and temporal concerns of the civic humanists developed in part because of the revival of Aristotelian political philosophy. Specifically, what it contributed to solving the problem of relating particulars to universals and of maintaining a vivere civile stable in time was its deployment of three fundamental concepts: the polis, the 9 classical citizen (zOon politikon), and the idea of isonomia or inherent equality of rights. The idea of the polis was helpful because it was construed as both a universal and a particular: universal with regard to its values, but particular with regard to its temporal and spatial location. Such a polis, the model for life in society as a "universality of participation rather than a universal for contemplation" (p. 75), further entailed a conception of citizenship as a form of perfection, grounded in the idea of isonomia: equality of rights and parity of standing among the enfranchised-- a parity construed in terms of extreme democracy. Thus, Aristotle's zOon politikon-a conceptual form in which, like the polis, a universality of value combined with a particularity of condition in space and t i m e - e n j o y e d intrinsic (universal) rights to be free, to govern, and to hold office. BIf a free man were qualified to be a citizen, he was qualified to g o v e r n - - a principle that served at once to resolve the connected questions so vital to the Renaissance: Who governs? How is power to be distributed? Where is the guardianship of liberty to be located? In addition to Aristotelian political theory, however, Pocock sees the discipline of law profoundly affecting the paradigm-shift noted above. For Pocock the universal could exist in secular particularity because of the fact that the idea of law combined in itself the universal dimensions of rationality, deductibility, and generality with the particular aspects of custom, circumstantiality, and peculiarity usually validated by usage in time. All laws, simply because they were laws, thus possessed an intelligible legal essence (by definition a universal). Accordingly, questions to be asked were: How well did they as particular laws suit their respective nations? How was proper legislation to be framed and by whose authority? How was law related to custom (as * Furthermore, Athenian public service was made possible by a system of salaries: ol~ce-holdingwas not predicated, as it was in Rome, on private wealth.



a means of organizing and understanding a succession of particulars in time past)? H o w was legal innovation to be effected? These questions take Pocock into an examination of the importance of c o m m o n experience; the judging of results; the experiential interlinking of past, present, and future; the conjoining of m e m o r y with innovation. In sum, the law provided a conceptual means for dealing with the question, H o w could anything transcendent and universal exist in secular particularity? What cannot but strike the Renaissance historian about this discussion of the law is that Pocock develops it in terms of the legal thought of Sir John Fortescue (c. 1390-1479) and not in terms of the tradition of R o m a n law that dominated continental legal thought and practice. To be sure Pocock is aware of the existence of this tradition, for he acknowledges "other languages, derived from R o m a n law and from the practical operation of Florentine institutions" (p. 83), available to the Florentine in search of means for expressing his patriotism. But he dismisses them for not being pertinent to the problems posed by the model. And once again we are reminded of the fact that we are not doing conventional history, but are tracking the transformations of a highly specialized construct. In this case, however, P o c o c k ' s dismissal of R o m a n law creates unnecessary ambiguity and provides instantiation of structuralist explanation at its least convincing. To begin with, we know that Pocock's model is an Aristotelian construct based principally on the idea of the polis as the sum of parts; that is, free citizens enjoying isonomia (inherent equality of rights). In Roman law, on the other hand, a different conceptual structure is deployed: the basic unit of analysis and value was not the individual with certain inherent natural rights, but the civitas, which awarded and ensured libertas under law. Under R o m a n law, the group or c o r p o r a t i o n - - w h a t Renaissance Florence would style the universitas (whether of family, guild, natione, ecclesia, patria, or stato)-conferred the rights of citizenship; they were not inherent or derived from birth. In sum, Aristotle and R o m a n law were diametrically opposed in their respective understandings o f citizenship and the state: Aristotle saw the former producing the latter; Rome saw the latter as cause of the former. Where the philosopher emphasized isonomia, or equal rights a m o n g the enfranchised, R o m a n lawyers construed aequum ius not as parity, but as fairness, justice, and equal treatment before the law. For Rome there was no equality of political rights enjoyed by all citizens (as in Athens). The right to be free, to govern, and to hold office was not in Rome an inherent, universal right, but an acquired civic right within the civitas. Participation of the R o m a n people in state affairs did not mean government by the people; at best, it was only for the people. There the real question was not whether the few should govern, but who those few should be. With R o m a n legal tradition thus militating against democratic egalitarianism, it is of little surprise that in everything but name the polity of Rome was that of an aristocratic republic: the dignitas o f the qualified few overt:ode the libertas of the many. 9 Nor was Renaissance Florence structurally very different. Though her political

' Rome thus provided the Florentine Guicciardini with a model for answering the question of distribution of power. However, because the Roman-law tradition is absent from the book, Pocock must devote 144 pages to Guicciardini's reworking of that problem --more than double the number of pages he devotes
to M a c h i a v e l l i .



rhetoric was flavored with republican terminology and egalitarian accents derived from several classical sources (including Aristotle), the Florentine mind-set construed the idea of citizenship in very limited terms. Between 1390 and 1530, for example, the city restricted full citizenship to a maximum of 4,000 individuals (and usually to only 2,000 to 2,500), although the population of the city and surrounding territory hovered around 150,000 people. Even worse, from the Greek democratic viewpoint, Florence was ruled during this period by an "inner oligarchy" of from 400 to 700 men (usually lawyers) from the leading families. '~ Surely, from the point of view of conventional history, there can be no question that in such a context Aristotle's egalitarian isonomia was not the functioning paradigm of Florentine citizenship. That which did function as the citizenship-paradigm, instead, was derived from the Roman idea of civitas and the idea of libertas with which it was so closely associated as to be virtually coterminous. Roman individual liberty was an acquired civic right, not, as in Athens, a natural and personal right. Liberty was negatively defined as freedom from servitus (a definition, incidentally, also found in Machiavelli); it was being without a dominus or without dominatio, that is, being without absolute monarchy; finally, it meant being in opposition to regnum (or arbitrary despotism). Because liberty could be enjoyed only under law, it was never a private or individual benefit, but a social, public quality belonging to the citizen within the organized community of the Roman state. It defined certain rights (to suffrage, to hold office, to judicial appeal, to certain private law rights, and to claim what is due to oneself), and it defined certain duties (to serve in the army, to pay taxes, to act in certain legal capacities- e.g., as j u r o r - and to respect what is due to others). In this larger sense, therefore, it entailed both freedom from and freedom t o , " and as a result was often thought to be compatible especially with a republican form of government. But, and this is highly significant, libertas was never made synonymous with the res publica. The latter was understood to be not just a form of government, but a way of life. In Renaissance Italy this kind of associative thinking yielded two very important concepts: the identification of civitas with princeps, and the identification of liberty not only with a republican form of government, but also with aristocracy. The former was accomplished when Florence sought to change her status within the Empire, claiming her sovereignty, in fact, by defining it in Bartolist terms, according to which the city became the equivalent of the princeps of Roman law. It became prince unto itself (civitas sibi princeps) and thus sovereign, capable of making its own law and its own definitions of citizenship, public utility and necessity (utilitas public, necessitas publica), and the good of the people. On the other hand, the identification of liberty potentially with aristocracy as well as with republics was accomplished by Machiavelli in The Prince (chap. 9). In fact, in The Discourses (I, 2) he
'* See Lauro Martines, Lawyers and Statecraft in Renaissance Florence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), passim. " Toward the end of his long review-article J. H. Hexter tries to separate two languages of freedom growing out of Isaiah Berlin's distinction between "freedom to" and "freedom against," and he tries to locate Pocock's book in the tradition of "freedom to." I think that this adds another complexity to an already complex book. See the very helpful essay by Ralph Ross, "Liberty, Rights, Duties, and Powers," in Ralph Ross and Ernest Van Den Haag, The Fabric o f Society: An lntroduclion to the Social Sciences (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1957), pp. 655-58.



applies republica to any kind of c o m m o n w e a l t h regardless of its constitutional form. i z Such conflation of terminology and conceptual revisionism makes it very clear that we do not have a binary relation of opposition governing the terms of the paradigm: the historical material simply will not fit into a scheme that equates liberty solely with republics in opposition to monarchies. One can concur with Pocock that Florentine political thinkers did deploy a conceptual structure built up out of available and limited ways of rendering p h e n o m e n a intelligible, but the evidence argues for a m o r e complex schema than the one Pocock provides us. Two test cases will m a k e this clear. P o c o c k ' s interpretation of Leonardo Bruni is such that he attempts to locate the Florentine entirely within the Aristotelian model of civic democratic egalitarianism --despite the fact that Bruni was very much influenced by the R o m a n law tradition (his legal studies having antedated his humanistic pursuits). Bruni's political language seems to Pocock to tolerate both aristocracy and democracy at the same time, but P o c o c k ' s paradigm cannot a c c o m m o d a t e such functional republican oligarchicalism, so he judges Bruni ambiguous. The language of ambiguity appears three times in two pages (pp. 90-91), " t e n s i o n " appears once, as does " p r o f o u n d contradictions," but the ambiguities disappear if Bruni is located in the conceptual structure of R o m a n law. P o c o c k ' s interpretation of Machiavelli renders the matter of ambiguity even more complex: in his eyes Machiavelli "enters the realm of moral ambiguity by the single step of defining virtf~ as an innovative force. It is not merely that by which men control their fortunes in a delegitimized world; it may also be that by which men innovate and so delegitimate their w o r l d s . . . " (p. 166). A paragraph later we learn that "virtft is that by which we innovate, and so let loose sequences of contingency beyond our prediction or control so that we become prey to fortuna; on the other hand, virtft is that internal to ourselves by which we resistfortuna and impose upon her patterns of order, which may even become patterns of moral order. This seems to be the heart of the Machiavellian ambiguities." Once again we see the deployment of binary opposites: virtft versusfortuna beside law and order versus virtft and innovation. Pocock firmly declares that Machiavelli "is prepared to examine the nature of rule where legitimacy is lacking" (p. 159), that the Florentine's central assertion in The Prince is that the time-realm of the new prince who innovates has become " a Hobbesian world in which men pursue their own ends without regard to any structure of l a w . . . " (p. 165). For Pocock such polarities fit his structuralist scheme: by identifying individual virtft with innovation in opposition to fortuna, and then identifying R o m a n civic virtft with arms in opposition to fortuna, he moves Machiavelli closer to the Aristotelian paradigm: " T h e relation of this theme [Machiavelli's exaltation of civic militia and hatred of mercenaries] to Aristotelian theory of citizenship is the vital point if we wish to understand his political t h o u g h t " (p. 200). But here the ambiguity is of Pocock's own making. While there can be no doubt that Machiavelli was concerned with an armed citizenry (since unarmed citizens, like ,z See Marcia Colish, "The Idea of Liberty in Machiavelli," Journal of the History of Ideas 32 (JulySeptember 1971): 323-50.



u n a r m e d p r o p h e t s , a r e d o o m e d to fail), there can also be no q u e s t i o n that the o t h e r h a l f o f his c o n c e r n was with the law, with l e g i t i m a c y as m u c h as with i n n o v a t i o n where law d o e s not cover. " T h e chief f o u n d a t i o n s o f all s t a t e s , " he writes in The Prince (chap 9 12), " w h e t h e r new, old, o r m i x e d , are g o o d laws a n d g o o d a r m s . A n d 9 . 9 there c a n n o t be g o o d laws where there are n o t g o o d a r m s , [but] where there a r e g o o d a r m s there m u s t be g o o d laws . . . . " A n d in the n o t o r i o u s eighteenth c h a p t e r he a n n o u n c e s the need for a prince to k n o w h o w to p r o c e e d - - v i z . , via the law a n d via force, the f o r m e r being p r o p e r to m a n , the s e c o n d to beasts. W h e n m e n a r e bestial, a p r i n c e ' s virtf~ will necessarily t a k e on the i n s t r u m e n t a l i t i e s o f force a n d coercion; b u t when t h e y are h u m a n , such virtf~ will d e p l o y the subtler c o e r c i o n a n d force o f the law. Such t h i n k i n g directly reflects the t e a c h i n g s o f R o m a n law in which t r a d i t i o n , a n d not in A r i s t o t e l i a n p h i l o s o p h y , M a c h i a v e l l i , like Bruni, stands. F o r all its t u r b u l e n c e M a c h i a v e l l i ' s political w o r l d is n o t a H o b b e s i a n one in which law is t o t a l l y d i s r e g a r d e d , b u t a R o m a n o n e where law is v i e w e d n o t p h i l o s o p h i c a l l y o r d o c t r i n a l l y , b u t f u n c t i o n a l l y a n d practically. In sum, the c o n c e p t u a l s t r u c t u r e that better c a p t u r e s R o m a n political t h o u g h t , a n d t h a t M a c h i a v e l l i entirely a d o p t s , is the o r g a n i c one o f the state as a corpus, with head a n d m e m b e r s , existing in p r o p o r t i o n a n d e q u i l i b r i u m , but c a p a b l e o f m a l a d i e s , fevers, a n d disease. T h e c a p a c i t y to r e s p o n d to disease, to a p p l y r e m e d i e s - - r e m e d i o being an i m p o r t a n t c o n c e p t b o t h in law a n d m e d i c i n e - - m u s t v a r y f r o m s i t u a t i o n to situation; it entails a p r o c e d u r a l flexibility on the p a r t o f the ruler(s) (reflected in M a c h i a v e l l i ' s c o n c e r n with il m o d o d i p r o c e d e r e ) that will lead t o keeping h e a d a n d m e m b e r s t o g e t h e r . P r i n c e l y virtft, in fact, c o u l d well be m o d e l e d on m e d i c a l virtft, except t h a t m o r e t h a n m e r e survival o r g o o d health is e n t a i l e d . Machiavelli is after grandezza, a value a b s e n t f r o m P o c o c k ' s analysis. A g a i n s t this b a c k g r o u n d M a c h i a v e l l i ' s " a m b i g u i t i e s " b e c o m e m u c h less a m b i g u ous. Virtfl is m u c h m o r e c o m p l e x t h a n P o c o c k suggests, a n d it clearly includes, n o t rejects, the law.'~ F o r the law is indeed one o f the i n s t r u m e n t a l i t i e s that the m a n o f virtf~ can d e p l o y againstfortuna. Like a system o f dikes a n d channels, it can serve to direct a n d m o d i f y , t h o u g h never t o t a l l y c o n t r o l , the f l o o d o f h u m a n p a s s i o n a n d energy. F i n a l l y , it is to be n o t e d t h a t there is a certain i r o n y in t h e fact that P o c o c k u n d e r stands law to be a m e a n s o f linking universal values with p a r t i c u l a r i t y , b u t t h a t his discussion is briefly confined to F o r t e s c u e a n d closed to c o n s i d e r a t i o n s o f R o m a n law. W e have l o c a t e d the r e a s o n s for this in P o c o c k ' s s t r u c t u r a l i s m , which, in its m o s t general f o r m , casts the p r o b l e m o f stabilizing a r e p u b l i c in time, the d o m a i n o f hostilefortuna; a n d which, in its m o r e p a r t i c u l a r forms, casts the p r o b l e m in t e r m s

'~ Virtt2, in fact, entailed for Machiavelli at least six meaning-clusters, only a few of which explicitly included the idea of innovation: (1) individual, personal capacity; (2) the ability of a group like the Roman people, or a social class; (3) quality of being (not particularly moral in tone); (4) moral virtue (including opposition to vice); (5) military virtue (distinguishable from both individual and collective virtU); and (6) virtf~ understood in an instrumental sense, as in our phrase "by virtue of." Pocock's association of virtft solely with innovation is further weakened by the fact that Roman law itself deployed a method for establishing new legal institutions-viz., innovation by addition without abrogation. Rather than abrogate old law, Rome would establish new forms of procedure alongside the old, which would be gradually forgotten--a technique especially evident in her development of administrative provincial law, and a technique taken over also by Renaissance Florence. In both cases, therefore, innovative virtft was not in opposition to law, but was at the very heart of the legal process.



of establishing a n A r i s t o t e l i a n polity first u n d e r F l o r e n t i n e , then u n d e r English a n d A m e r i c a n c o n d i t i o n s . The fact that Renaissance t h i n k e r s a n d painters viewed time as n o t only a destructive, m u r d e r i n g force, but as a revealing, n u r t u r i n g force c a n n o t be a d j u s t e d to a m o d e l freighted with both A r i s t o t e l a i n a n d C h r i s t i a n d e p r e c a t i o n of time. ' ' C e r t a i n l y the A r i s t o t e l i a n m o d e l required that the n a t u r a l cycle be imaged in the c o n c e p t u a l i z i n g o f time; therefore, all things in t i m e m u s t pass away. If c o n v e n tional history, h o w e v e r , asks after a C i c e r o n i a n m o d e l that invested time with positive value a n d that posited the n o t i o n of a republic a t t a i n i n g to i m m o r t a l i t y , " it would meet the r e m i n d e r that this is not " n o r m a l " intellectual history, b u t the pres e n t a t i o n of a highly specialized analytical c o n s t r u c t , n o t i m m e d i a t e l y c o n c e r n e d with the R a n k e a n D i n g an sich. The matter is p e r h a p s most clearly f o r m u l a t e d by Pocock himself, who, in a n o t h e r essay on a n entirely different subject, wrote: I know no Chinese, and little enough about the history of C h i n a . . . ; but some years ago, 1 chanced to read a number of translations from ancient Chinese p h i l o s o p h e r s . . , which struck me as containing a definite political meaning. . . . But in writing [this pattern], I was (I hope) sufficiently careful to avoid putting it forward as a statement about the way in which ancient Chinese actually thought about politics, and to exclude as m a n y historical referents as possible. Since my lack of knowledge of the historical period precludes me from making or testing statements about what actually happened or obtained then, it was clearly my duty to offer my reconstruction purely as an account o f a notional situation. ~6 In sum, the o p p o r t u n i t i e s for c o n f u s i o n are reduced if we recall that the Machiavellian m o m e n t is m o r e a n a c c o u n t of a " n o t i o n a l s i t u a t i o n " t h a n a n a c c o u n t of political t h o u g h t ( " w h a t e v e r that might b e " ) . JOHN H. GEERKEN S c r i p p s C o l l e g e a n d the C l a r e m o n t G r a d u a t e S c h o o l

" Cf. Machiavelli in The Prince, chap. 3: "[Time] brings with it all things, and may produce indifferently either good or evil. . . . " The Discourses (I, 3) refer to time as "the father of all truth" an echo of the contemporary clich~ veritas filia temporis. For the iconography of time, see Rudolf Wittkower, "Chance, Time and Virtue," Journal of the Warburg Institute 1 (1937-38):313-21. '~ Cf. Cicero, De Republica III, xxiii, 34: "[A civitas] ought to be so firmly founded that it will live forever; since death is not natural for a state as it is for a human being. . . . " Properly founded, on ancestral principles and customs, a republic can attain to immortality (immortalitate reipublicae). Cf. note 5 above. One misses the presence of Cicero in Pocock's book, not only because he was more influential than Aristotle in shaping Continental political thought, but also because his political oeuvre, indebted as it was to Greek philosophy and Roman law, addressed the very questions with which Pocock is concerned. " "Ritual, Language, Power: An Essay on the Apparent Political Meanings of Andent Chinese Philosophy," in J. G. A. Pocock, Politics, Language, and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History (London: Methuen & Co., 1972), p. 31, emphasis added.