'Real power is fear': what Machiavelli tells us about Trump in 2020

Source: The Guardian - View Original Article
Published: Feb 08, 2020
Category:
Bias Rating:

67% Conservative


Top 5 policies analyzed:

European Union

Top 5 sentiments contributing towards policies:

91% : " Our discussion, which led to the publica­tion in 2015 of L'exercice de la peur: usages politiques d'une émotion (Spreading fear: the political uses of an emo­tion), asked whether the American way of fear might be exported around the world.
90% : Should we admire him or not, is he with us or against us, and is he still our con­temporary or is what he says ancient history?
89% : But if he is captivating, it's because he lets us see how the social energy of political configurations always spills out of the neat constructs in which it's meant to stay put.
88% : what makes them truly afraid?
82% : If we are tempted to assign words spoken by Don­ald Trump to Machiavelli, it's not just because many western leaders have, and for a long time, bolstered their sense of their own power by affecting a cynical and crafty tone in the belief that it represents the last word in Machiavellian thought.
82% : We touched on Hobbes, of course, De Tocqueville and Hannah Arendt, but also
82% : We could in turn read Orwell and replace "party" with "prince".
81% : The simplicity of those rules has everything to do with the experts' lack of imagination.
78% : This experience, which is profoundly Machiavellian in nature, is one that recurs again and again in history, whenever the words for expressing the things of politics become obsolete.
78% : One thing is certain: when we use words from the past, we are show­ing our inability to understand the present.
75% : This is an edited extract from Machiavelli:
74% : I don't con­sider myself a historian of political ideas, but I approached Machiavelli a decade ago, yoking him with Leonardo da Vinci in an essay on contemporaneousness.
74% : When justice stops being effective (or when crimes of corruption stop being punished) and when political vio­lence is no longer a threat, there is nothing left to cause fear in those who govern shamelessly, that is, buoyed by a mood they aren't in control of and that no one is on hand to countervail.
70% : In a sense, totalitarianism is a political fiction.
70% : The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears," Orwell's hero, Winston Smith, says in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
69% : We intend to confound them, to abash and bring them down, when we should in fact be examining what they say closely for its fascist potential.
69% : What import does a virtuoso of political ruses like Machiavelli have for us?
69% : People who see history as primarily tragic have always felt that the scenes of our disarray might well have been penned by a ghostly Shakespeare.
62% : My little book doesn't pretend to resolve these questions; nor is it addressed to those who will read it to feel that they have right on their side - whether that side is answerable to justice or to power.
62% : Literature doesn't predict the future any more than it protects us from its threats.
61% : In every case, Machiavelli proved a worthy brother-in-arms who, because he had thrown light on his own times, threw light on ours - proving himself a contemporary in the very best sense.
61% : Although this book restores the text to its original place, there is still a gap left by the lasting stamp of fear.
61% : It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger."
59% : This sentence could have been written by Niccolò Machiavelli.
58% : " It's not a Party, but it's something else that we don't know what to call, a fiction that is taking on body under our eyes.
57% : Machiavelli, who continually inquired about the fears of those who govern:
57% : His sentences invariably run away with him; he has no sooner declared that there are only two avenues than he proceeds down a third.
57% : They all brought him back to his art of naming with precision that which was happening, his ability to take stock implaca­bly, inextricably joining poetry and politics.
56% : "Real power is - I don't even want to use the word - fear."
56% : It was spoken by Donald Trump in March 2016 when Trump was still only a candidate for the US presidency, and these words now appear as the epigraph to Bob Woodward's book Fear:
56% : Three years later, what is the sense of spending fur­ther time with Machiavelli?
55% : During the summer of 2016, I gave a series of daily talks on French public radio in which I tried to articu­late this capacity of Machiavellian thought to sharpen our understanding of the present.
55% : Either way, Machiavelli needs to be read not in the present, but in the future tense.
54% : Should we look in Machiavelli's work for the art of coming to terms over our disagreements or look instead for that skill the dominated have of recog­nizing the science of their domination?
53% : American his­torians have since associated Machiavelli's name with that form of political crisis, a practice I have followed in this book.
52% : Not solely.
51% : My little book col­lects those texts, which in their biting brevity and direct address attempt to harmonize in style with Machiavelli - not simply his manner of writing but his art of thinking, which brings to flashpoint the fusion of poetry and politics.
51% : Only one of these talks was not broadcast on the France Inter network during the summer of 2016, the fifth, focused on Machiavelli's reading of Lucretius's De natura rerum, "a dangerous and deviant book that makes the world jump its rails and come off its hinges".
49% : What will then happen to the repub­lic?
49% : He defined the intellectual's task as a kind of resoluteness toward truth - being unmoved by the dazzle of words to "go straight toward the actual truth of the matter".
49% : And what we need to understand is: what is this taking on of body, and how can our own society come to embody monstrousness?
48% : My conversations with Machiavelli became more regular and fruitful as I approached topics of which the Florentine author was, in his day, the most clear-sighted analyst.
46% : Machia­velli taught me to see it less as a representation of power than as a machine for producing political emotions: per­suasion, in the public buildings of the republican city-states; and intimidation, in the fortified strongholds that the princes built to keep those states in line.
46% : The History of a Political Idea.
46% : It is there that a general disregard for the "actual truth of the matter" was patiently nurtured.
45% : When a journalist asked me about this electoral smash-and-grab, so characteristic of the boldness commended by the author of The Prince, I glibly described Macron as a "Machiavelli in reverse", meaning that the French president had abandoned philosophy for politics, whereas Machiavelli chose to make his mark in philosophy when politics abandoned him.
45% : "The evidence of one's eyes and ears" referred to by Orwell could be common sense; it could also be that sixth sense Machiavelli spoke of, the accessory knowledge that the people have of what is dominating them.
42% : The consequences for the French electoral cycle, starting in January 2017, were similarly astounding.
41% : It's because we literally don't know what to think of Machiavelli.
41% : This happened first as I researched the political meaning of the architecture of the quattrocento.
40% : Living in unstable times, Machiavelli was keenly aware that the old political lexicon, which the Mid­dle Ages had inherited from Aristotle, no longer served him adequately.
40% : In these troubled times, when the stutterers can't be told from those who are talking of the future, the last peo­ple anyone wants to hear from are the so-called experts at predicting trends, who reduce all the indeterminacy in political life to a few elementary rules of collective action.
40% : " What the novel describes is the capacity of propaganda to hollow out a receptive space in people by undermin­ing reality and sense experiences.
40% : I tried during the summer of 2016 to reconstruct the face of Machiavelli hidden by the mask of Machiavel­lianism; and if that face turned out to be as changeable as a storm-tossed sky, it's because its owner hardly had the time to choose among his different talents.
39% : On the contrary, this book tries to stay in that uncomfortable zone of thought that sees its own indeterminacy as the very locus of politics.
39% : It had its first trial in George Orwell's 1949 fable and was then given a theoretical analysis by Hannah Arendt in 1951.
38% : And today we are undeniably living through another Machiavellian moment, again bringing the Flor­entine author close to the core of American reality.
36% : I should, at this stage, give a few explanations - who is speaking, and to whom.
35% : Machiavelli is that thinker of alternatives who dissects every situation into an "either/or", drawing a crossroads of meaning at every stage of historical development.
34% : In the past few years it seems that the perverse pleasure that the pub­lic takes in contradicting pollsters - who minimize the voters' ability to choose by presenting developments as foreordained - has turned to fierce vindictiveness.
33% : Since the summer of 2016, in France but also in the United States and elsewhere, every political forecast has been systematically proven wrong.
33% : Looking only at electoral results, from the United King­dom's Brexit vote on 23 June 2016, on whether to remain in the European Union, to Donald Trump's election to the US presidency on 8 November of that same year, the qualità dei tempi has definitely turned to storms.
32% : The plan was to air the episode on Friday 15 July, but it was swallowed up by the sorrow, anger and numbness that followed the terrorist attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on 14 July, France's national holiday, when 86 peo­ple were killed and more than 400 wounded.
32% : The same sense, perhaps, that Walter Benjamin attributed to the very ambition of history: "To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it 'the way it really was'.
30% : "One day," he wrote, "the war on terror­ism will come to an end.
30% : In 1975, JGA Pocock defined that loss of equilib­rium as "the Machiavellian moment", when there is daylight between a republic and its values.
30% : When we try to work out whether a particular political situation is going to turn out one way or another, it's well to remember that it is carried along by a general movement that has already occurred.
30% : But as "the grotesque wheels of power" (in Michel Foucault's phrase) grind into motion, it seems that the coarsening of public discourse we are now experiencing got its start on a less exalted stage - none other than that misleadingly named feature of Trumpian America known as "reality TV".
30% : And in that case, why not look at his theater, his histories, even his love poetry?
29% : As I write this preface, I am remembering a dia­logue that I had with the political scientist Corey Robin, the author of a major book in 2004
28% : Trump in the White House.
28% : And when it does, we will find ourselves still living in fear: not of terrorism or radical Islam, but of the domestic rulers that fear has left behind.
28% : And: "Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied.
28% : The Art of Teaching People What to Fear by Patrick Boucheron, published in the US by Other Press
27% : All wars do.
27% : Admittedly it was not the Party, as imagined by anti-totalitarian writers, that spoke when Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, declared, "Our inten­tion is never to lie to you," before adding "sometimes we can disagree with the facts.
25% : We call them "fascists", for want of a better term - just as in Italy's medieval communes, the people called the lords "tyrants".
25% : We now know that what came after, what obtains today, took its place without receiving a name.
21% : Following a series of extraordinary circumstances that eliminated all the expected candidates one after another - those picked either as favorites or as dead certainties - the election gave the presidency to Emmanuel Macron, a man who happened in his philosophical youth to have written an essay on Machiavelli.
21% : Perhaps this is what awaits many European and other world nations: they are so worried about a pending catastrophe that they won't understand when it has already happened.
21% : That's why, in 2017, there was such a surge of interest in the United States in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
21% : It warns, yes, in the sense that it sounds the alert about a catastrophe that generally doesn't hap­pen, or not in the way it was imagined.
20% : Ever since 1984 came and went without bearing out Orwell's dystopian predictions, we no longer read his novel as a foreshad­owing or preview of a totalitarian regime.
19% : At this stage, we know that totalitarianism is a category not so much meant to describe a political reality as to make that real­ity fit into a pre-established form - for instance, at the end of the second world war, when the liberal democracies were intent on demonstrating that communism would pur­sue nazism by other means.
19% : Gramsci read Machiavelli's The Prince replacing the word "prince" with the word "party".
15% : This question inevitably arises when anxiety is felt about democracy, because the republic loses its stability when it no longer reflects a pacified equilibrium between the different fears that divide it.
14% : Orwell imag­ined the tyranny of a "Ministry of Truth" but that's not what happened, and we don't yet know if it's for better or worse. "
9% : What do we do when confronting adversaries we can't put a name to?
9% : Not for the first time have upcoming politics had their start in fiction.
8% : Is a more off-putting introduction to our subject imagin­able?
7% : Is that why I have chosen to give prominence in the book's American edition to the politics of fear?
7% : If he were nothing more than the wily and unscrupulous strategist that a hostile pos­terity has portrayed him to be, then not much at all.
4% : Unexpect­edly, I found Machiavelli a useful guide and support - I'd almost say a faithful friend, one whose intelligence never failed me.

*Our bias meter rating uses data science including sentiment analysis, machine learning and our proprietary algorithm for determining biases in news articles. The rating is an independent analysis and is not affiliated nor sponsored by the news source or any other organization

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Contributing sentiments towards policy:

91% : " Our discussion, which led to the publica­tion in 2015 of L'exercice de la peur: usages politiques d'une émotion (Spreading fear: the political uses of an emo­tion), asked whether the American way of fear might be exported around the world.
90% : Should we admire him or not, is he with us or against us, and is he still our con­temporary or is what he says ancient history?
89% : But if he is captivating, it's because he lets us see how the social energy of political configurations always spills out of the neat constructs in which it's meant to stay put.
88% : what makes them truly afraid?
82% : If we are tempted to assign words spoken by Don­ald Trump to Machiavelli, it's not just because many western leaders have, and for a long time, bolstered their sense of their own power by affecting a cynical and crafty tone in the belief that it represents the last word in Machiavellian thought.
82% : We touched on Hobbes, of course, De Tocqueville and Hannah Arendt, but also
82% : We could in turn read Orwell and replace "party" with "prince".
81% : The simplicity of those rules has everything to do with the experts' lack of imagination.
78% : This experience, which is profoundly Machiavellian in nature, is one that recurs again and again in history, whenever the words for expressing the things of politics become obsolete.
78% : One thing is certain: when we use words from the past, we are show­ing our inability to understand the present.
75% : This is an edited extract from Machiavelli:
74% : I don't con­sider myself a historian of political ideas, but I approached Machiavelli a decade ago, yoking him with Leonardo da Vinci in an essay on contemporaneousness.
74% : When justice stops being effective (or when crimes of corruption stop being punished) and when political vio­lence is no longer a threat, there is nothing left to cause fear in those who govern shamelessly, that is, buoyed by a mood they aren't in control of and that no one is on hand to countervail.
70% : In a sense, totalitarianism is a political fiction.
70% : The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears," Orwell's hero, Winston Smith, says in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
69% : We intend to confound them, to abash and bring them down, when we should in fact be examining what they say closely for its fascist potential.
69% : What import does a virtuoso of political ruses like Machiavelli have for us?
69% : People who see history as primarily tragic have always felt that the scenes of our disarray might well have been penned by a ghostly Shakespeare.
62% : My little book doesn't pretend to resolve these questions; nor is it addressed to those who will read it to feel that they have right on their side - whether that side is answerable to justice or to power.
62% : Literature doesn't predict the future any more than it protects us from its threats.
61% : In every case, Machiavelli proved a worthy brother-in-arms who, because he had thrown light on his own times, threw light on ours - proving himself a contemporary in the very best sense.
61% : Although this book restores the text to its original place, there is still a gap left by the lasting stamp of fear.
61% : It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger."
59% : This sentence could have been written by Niccolò Machiavelli.
58% : " It's not a Party, but it's something else that we don't know what to call, a fiction that is taking on body under our eyes.
57% : Machiavelli, who continually inquired about the fears of those who govern:
57% : His sentences invariably run away with him; he has no sooner declared that there are only two avenues than he proceeds down a third.
57% : They all brought him back to his art of naming with precision that which was happening, his ability to take stock implaca­bly, inextricably joining poetry and politics.
56% : "Real power is - I don't even want to use the word - fear."
56% : It was spoken by Donald Trump in March 2016 when Trump was still only a candidate for the US presidency, and these words now appear as the epigraph to Bob Woodward's book Fear:
56% : Three years later, what is the sense of spending fur­ther time with Machiavelli?
55% : During the summer of 2016, I gave a series of daily talks on French public radio in which I tried to articu­late this capacity of Machiavellian thought to sharpen our understanding of the present.
55% : Either way, Machiavelli needs to be read not in the present, but in the future tense.
54% : Should we look in Machiavelli's work for the art of coming to terms over our disagreements or look instead for that skill the dominated have of recog­nizing the science of their domination?
53% : American his­torians have since associated Machiavelli's name with that form of political crisis, a practice I have followed in this book.
52% : Not solely.
51% : My little book col­lects those texts, which in their biting brevity and direct address attempt to harmonize in style with Machiavelli - not simply his manner of writing but his art of thinking, which brings to flashpoint the fusion of poetry and politics.
51% : Only one of these talks was not broadcast on the France Inter network during the summer of 2016, the fifth, focused on Machiavelli's reading of Lucretius's De natura rerum, "a dangerous and deviant book that makes the world jump its rails and come off its hinges".
49% : What will then happen to the repub­lic?
49% : He defined the intellectual's task as a kind of resoluteness toward truth - being unmoved by the dazzle of words to "go straight toward the actual truth of the matter".
49% : And what we need to understand is: what is this taking on of body, and how can our own society come to embody monstrousness?
48% : My conversations with Machiavelli became more regular and fruitful as I approached topics of which the Florentine author was, in his day, the most clear-sighted analyst.
46% : Machia­velli taught me to see it less as a representation of power than as a machine for producing political emotions: per­suasion, in the public buildings of the republican city-states; and intimidation, in the fortified strongholds that the princes built to keep those states in line.
46% : The History of a Political Idea.
46% : It is there that a general disregard for the "actual truth of the matter" was patiently nurtured.
45% : When a journalist asked me about this electoral smash-and-grab, so characteristic of the boldness commended by the author of The Prince, I glibly described Macron as a "Machiavelli in reverse", meaning that the French president had abandoned philosophy for politics, whereas Machiavelli chose to make his mark in philosophy when politics abandoned him.
45% : "The evidence of one's eyes and ears" referred to by Orwell could be common sense; it could also be that sixth sense Machiavelli spoke of, the accessory knowledge that the people have of what is dominating them.
42% : The consequences for the French electoral cycle, starting in January 2017, were similarly astounding.
41% : It's because we literally don't know what to think of Machiavelli.
41% : This happened first as I researched the political meaning of the architecture of the quattrocento.
40% : Living in unstable times, Machiavelli was keenly aware that the old political lexicon, which the Mid­dle Ages had inherited from Aristotle, no longer served him adequately.
40% : In these troubled times, when the stutterers can't be told from those who are talking of the future, the last peo­ple anyone wants to hear from are the so-called experts at predicting trends, who reduce all the indeterminacy in political life to a few elementary rules of collective action.
40% : " What the novel describes is the capacity of propaganda to hollow out a receptive space in people by undermin­ing reality and sense experiences.
40% : I tried during the summer of 2016 to reconstruct the face of Machiavelli hidden by the mask of Machiavel­lianism; and if that face turned out to be as changeable as a storm-tossed sky, it's because its owner hardly had the time to choose among his different talents.
39% : On the contrary, this book tries to stay in that uncomfortable zone of thought that sees its own indeterminacy as the very locus of politics.
39% : It had its first trial in George Orwell's 1949 fable and was then given a theoretical analysis by Hannah Arendt in 1951.
38% : And today we are undeniably living through another Machiavellian moment, again bringing the Flor­entine author close to the core of American reality.
36% : I should, at this stage, give a few explanations - who is speaking, and to whom.
35% : Machiavelli is that thinker of alternatives who dissects every situation into an "either/or", drawing a crossroads of meaning at every stage of historical development.
34% : In the past few years it seems that the perverse pleasure that the pub­lic takes in contradicting pollsters - who minimize the voters' ability to choose by presenting developments as foreordained - has turned to fierce vindictiveness.
33% : Since the summer of 2016, in France but also in the United States and elsewhere, every political forecast has been systematically proven wrong.
33% : Looking only at electoral results, from the United King­dom's Brexit vote on 23 June 2016, on whether to remain in the European Union, to Donald Trump's election to the US presidency on 8 November of that same year, the qualità dei tempi has definitely turned to storms.
32% : The plan was to air the episode on Friday 15 July, but it was swallowed up by the sorrow, anger and numbness that followed the terrorist attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on 14 July, France's national holiday, when 86 peo­ple were killed and more than 400 wounded.
32% : The same sense, perhaps, that Walter Benjamin attributed to the very ambition of history: "To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it 'the way it really was'.
30% : "One day," he wrote, "the war on terror­ism will come to an end.
30% : In 1975, JGA Pocock defined that loss of equilib­rium as "the Machiavellian moment", when there is daylight between a republic and its values.
30% : When we try to work out whether a particular political situation is going to turn out one way or another, it's well to remember that it is carried along by a general movement that has already occurred.
30% : But as "the grotesque wheels of power" (in Michel Foucault's phrase) grind into motion, it seems that the coarsening of public discourse we are now experiencing got its start on a less exalted stage - none other than that misleadingly named feature of Trumpian America known as "reality TV".
30% : And in that case, why not look at his theater, his histories, even his love poetry?
29% : As I write this preface, I am remembering a dia­logue that I had with the political scientist Corey Robin, the author of a major book in 2004
28% : Trump in the White House.
28% : And when it does, we will find ourselves still living in fear: not of terrorism or radical Islam, but of the domestic rulers that fear has left behind.
28% : And: "Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied.
28% : The Art of Teaching People What to Fear by Patrick Boucheron, published in the US by Other Press
27% : All wars do.
27% : Admittedly it was not the Party, as imagined by anti-totalitarian writers, that spoke when Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, declared, "Our inten­tion is never to lie to you," before adding "sometimes we can disagree with the facts.
25% : We call them "fascists", for want of a better term - just as in Italy's medieval communes, the people called the lords "tyrants".
25% : We now know that what came after, what obtains today, took its place without receiving a name.
21% : Following a series of extraordinary circumstances that eliminated all the expected candidates one after another - those picked either as favorites or as dead certainties - the election gave the presidency to Emmanuel Macron, a man who happened in his philosophical youth to have written an essay on Machiavelli.
21% : Perhaps this is what awaits many European and other world nations: they are so worried about a pending catastrophe that they won't understand when it has already happened.
21% : That's why, in 2017, there was such a surge of interest in the United States in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
21% : It warns, yes, in the sense that it sounds the alert about a catastrophe that generally doesn't hap­pen, or not in the way it was imagined.
20% : Ever since 1984 came and went without bearing out Orwell's dystopian predictions, we no longer read his novel as a foreshad­owing or preview of a totalitarian regime.
19% : At this stage, we know that totalitarianism is a category not so much meant to describe a political reality as to make that real­ity fit into a pre-established form - for instance, at the end of the second world war, when the liberal democracies were intent on demonstrating that communism would pur­sue nazism by other means.
19% : Gramsci read Machiavelli's The Prince replacing the word "prince" with the word "party".
15% : This question inevitably arises when anxiety is felt about democracy, because the republic loses its stability when it no longer reflects a pacified equilibrium between the different fears that divide it.
14% : Orwell imag­ined the tyranny of a "Ministry of Truth" but that's not what happened, and we don't yet know if it's for better or worse. "
9% : What do we do when confronting adversaries we can't put a name to?
9% : Not for the first time have upcoming politics had their start in fiction.
8% : Is a more off-putting introduction to our subject imagin­able?
7% : Is that why I have chosen to give prominence in the book's American edition to the politics of fear?
7% : If he were nothing more than the wily and unscrupulous strategist that a hostile pos­terity has portrayed him to be, then not much at all.
4% : Unexpect­edly, I found Machiavelli a useful guide and support - I'd almost say a faithful friend, one whose intelligence never failed me.

*Our bias meter rating uses data science including sentiment analysis, machine learning and our proprietary algorithm for determining biases in news articles. The rating is an independent analysis and is not affiliated nor sponsored by the news source or any other organization