Taming the Prince: The Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power

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9780029199800: Taming the Prince: The Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power

This survey of Western political thought ranges from Aristotle to "The Federalist Papers", showing how the doctrine of executive power arose and how it has developed to the present day. Although there were various "proto-executives", from Roman dictators to Christian kings, the modern executive first appears with Machiavelli's "The Prince". Yet Machiavelli's strong - even cruel - leader undermines republican theory. Subsequent philosophers, Mansfield argues, seized upon the Prince and transformed him into the American president. Liberalized by Locke, constitutionalized by Montesquieu, Machiavelli's bloodthirsty executive was finally "tamed" by channelling his antinomian energies into a uniquely flexible constitutional framework.

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"Perhaps the most penetrating study of executive power ever written... Mansfield's argument leads to a reassessment not only of executive power in general, but of the character of modern republicanism -- indeed, of modern politics altogether." -- Review of Politics

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"A dazzling and essential book. Mansfield brings the excitement and tension of a mystery story to this investigation of the executive -- the most important and at the same time the most banal notion of modern politics." -- Allan Bloom, University of Chicago

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