‘Not Even a God Can Save Us Now: Reading Machiavelli after Heidegger’ by Brian Harding

Published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2017. Download link updated on 29. June 2021.


The interplay between violence, religion, and politics is a crucial problem societies have to deal with, which has attracted the attention of various philosophers, including Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, and René Girard. Centuries earlier these same problems drew interest of Niccolò Machiavelli during the Italian Renaissance.

In a new and highly provocative approach, Not Even a God Can Save Us Now argues Machiavelli’s work anticipates and often illuminates contemporary theories on violence and develops his specific accounts of sacrifice, truth and religion, while remaining cognizant of the historical and cultural context of his writings, placing them in the history of philosophy and in dialogue with contemporary continental thought.

In detailed discussions of Machiavelli’s The Prince and Discourses on Livy, as well as his Florentine Histories, The Art of War, and other less widely mentioned works, Harding interprets Machiavelli as endorsing sacrificial violence that both founds or preserves a state, while censuring other forms of violence. The reading clarifies many obscure themes in Machiavelli’s writings, demonstrating how similar ideas are at work in the work of recent thinkers.

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