Ronald J. Schmidt, Jr.
Reading Politics with Machiavelli
Oxford University Press 2018
Ronald J. Schmidt, Jr., in his new book, Reading Politics with Machiavelli (Oxford University Press, 2018), puts himself and the reader into conversation with Machiavelli, exploring Machiavelli’s thinking and how Machiavelli explains his theories. As Schmidt notes, Machiavelli put himself into non-temporal conversations with ancient and classical thinkers, with religious texts and understandings, and with a raft of historical and contemporary political examples and experiences. These encounters provide the opportunity to reconsider democratic institutions and, more importantly for Schmidt’s analysis, an expansion of the democratic imagination. Part of the critique of our current political imagination is that it is circumscribed by a neoliberal narrowness. In order to think through solutions to political problems, Schmidt engages Machiavelli’s many works, finding within those works two things: potential solutions to contemporary political problems, but perhaps more importantly, new ways to think about the problems themselves and the possible solutions. This is the more profound interpretation within Reading Politics with Machiavelli, that Niccolo Machiavelli, in the intimate mode of his writing, and in the engaging way he structures and integrates his examples and what we should learn from those examples and analyses, is providing contemporary readers with innovative and imaginative approaches to think about politics.