The interplay between violence, religion, and politics is a central problem for societies and has attracted the attention of important philosophers, including Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, and René Girard. Centuries earlier during the Italian Renaissance, these same problems drew the interest of Niccolò Machiavelli.
In Not Even a God Can Save Us Now, Brian Harding argues that Machiavelli’s work anticipates – and often illuminates – contemporary theories on the place of violence in our lives. While remaining cognizant of the historical and cultural context of Machiavelli’s writings, Harding develops Machiavelli’s accounts of sacrifice, truth, religion, and violence and places them in conversation with those of more contemporary thinkers. Including in-depth discussions of Machiavelli’s works The Prince and Discourses on Livy, as well as his Florentine Histories, The Art of War, and other less widely discussed works, Harding interprets Machiavelli as endorsing sacrificial violence that founds or preserves a state, while censuring other forms of violence. This reading clarifies a number of obscure themes in Machiavelli’s writings, and demonstrates how similar themes are at work in the thought of recent phenomenologists.
The first book to approach both Machiavellian and contemporary continental thought in this way, Not Even a God Can Save Us Now is a highly original and provocative approach to both the history of philosophy and to contemporary debates about violence, religion, and politics.