Machiavelli Then & Now

Course content

Accusations of “Machiavellianism” abound.  The term is a forceful condemnation of a political opponent, suggesting unparalleled deceit and inevitable treachery. Despite this association, politicians ranging from Emmanuel Macron to Steven Bannon still refer to their knowledge of Machiavelli to imply political skillfulness. While Machiavelli has become an integral part of our everyday political vocabulary, we lack a sense of what he said and how it has been interpreted. Machiavelli has been called many things: master of statecraft, teacher of evil, quintessential republican, and radical democrat. These many Machiavelli’s often tell us as much about the thinker engaging with the work of Machiavelli as they tell us about the Renaissance Florentine himself. This course reads Machiavelli’s core political texts alongside debates that have unfolded through his work. We will follow the ways his thought has informed conversations about the role of the people in the polity, ideas of morality and politics, the nature of political knowledge, and the relationship between war, power, and authority, among other issues. Revisiting the debates around Machiavelli’s political thought alongside the original text provides us not only with a chance to dispute earlier interpretations but also offers a map of major concepts in political theory. Drawing on the interventions of his many interpreters, we will consider how Machiavelli might speak to our contemporary political moment. Where do love and fear arise in our political life? How do we build a polity that can endure? Who is the new Prince, and what would it mean to apply this concept today?


Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.

Learning outcome


Upon completing this course, students will be able to identify significant elements of Machiavelli’s political thought. Students will critically assess Machiavelli’s reception and relevance for ongoing conversations concerning essential concepts in political theory.


Students will be able to analyze arguments and concepts in political theory texts. They will learn to critically evaluate the validity of theorists’ arguments and be able to apply relevant concepts to a broader understanding of our political world.


Students will be able to critically assess and combine complex theories. Furthermore, they will learn to develop an argument, provide effective evidence for relevant claims made in support of that argument, and present the argument in clear and effective writing.

Lecture, student-led discussion, student presentations, and group work.

Machiavelli, Niccoló. The Prince. Trans. Peter Bondanella. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

--. Discourses on Livy. Trans. Julia Conway Bondanella & Peter Bondanella. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Skinner, Quentin. Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

McCormick, John. Machiavellian Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Brown, Wendy. “Renaissance Italy: Machiavelli.” In Feminist Interpretations of Niccoló Machiavelli. Ed. Maria J. Falco. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State College, 2004. 117–172.

Strauss, Leo. Thoughts on Machiavelli. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.

Gramsci, Antonio. “The Modern Prince.” In Selections from Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. Ed. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers, 1978.

Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. Fortune is a Woman: Gender and Politics in the Thought of Niccoló Machiavelli. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Althusser, Louis. Machiavelli and Us. Trans. Gregory Elliott. New York: Verso, 1999.

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Assembly. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28