Niccolò Machiavelli

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By RUBENS PINTO LYRA*

Political realism, dialectic of social conflicts and popular participation

A virtù, politics and the modern Prince

In the Middle Ages, whose values ​​were largely inspired by the work of Saint Augustine, “human work meant nothing, as it was the pure expression of our conception of beings in decline. The real praiseworthy actions were done under divine inspiration, by grace, and had no connection with the individual qualities of men. Now, the republican conception, typical of the humanists, placed man at the center of the universe, demanding from him what, in the eyes of a medieval thinker, only grace could provide” (BIGNOTTO 1999:32).

The Renaissance will operate a conversion from the contemplative attitude, typical of the Middle Ages, to behavior that values ​​action, the individual's protagonism, knowledge and freedom. Gradually, religious asceticism gives way to hedonism, love, strength and beauty. The contemplative attitude gives way to daring and the spirit of initiative, which is reflected in the audacious innovations introduced in economic, social, political, artistic and cultural life.

It is in this context that Machiavelli's analyzes of the virtù. The individuals who bear it bet on the transforming power of action, imposing limits on the uncertainties of Fortune (good or bad luck, the imponderables, the uncertainties of life). A virtù combines several attributes, such as: daring, tempered by prudence (lion man and fox); innovative spirit; knowing how to judge and decide, cunning; ability to perceive where the winds are blowing, the direction that events will take. The man is malleable, inventive and insightful.

In summary: “the charisma of virtù is characteristic of those who conform to the nature of their time, apprehend its meaning and are able to carry out, in practice, the latent need in the circumstances” (MARTINS, 1979: XVII). A virtù characterizes the qualities of innovative men, but also the spirit of some peoples and their institutions. It can designate both a natural gift and an exercise in discipline.

For Machiavelli (1469-1527), the virtuous politician, who has the stature of a statesman, is the one who demonstrates public spirit, leadership and discernment, translated into the perception of new values ​​and the capacity to make progress effective for the benefit of the nation. The charisma of the true prince (understood this term, in this chapter, as a synonym of one (or several rulers) is expressed, therefore, in his ability to conquer and maintain power, leading the ship (the State) to a safe harbor, guaranteeing to the people of which he is leader, stability and progress.

To do so, he must, on the one hand, show skill “playing with the distribution of goods, honors, rewards” (RUBY, 1997: 69) and preventing the plebs from being crushed by the powerful. The Prince's mediating action is an essential attribute of the art of governing, in which he must be a master, having, as a consequence, "an active, and even structuring, role within a heterogeneous political body" (RUBY, 1997:69 ).

Currently, there are scholars who use such analytical parameters, centered on the concept according to which “it is not the intention that validates the act, but its result” (MAZZEO, apud Moreira, 1975:32) to evaluate the action of statesmen and rulers contemporaries. In this assessment, one must always bear in mind the profound difference in the political practices of current democracies in relation to those of the first quarter of the XNUMXth century, which had not yet said goodbye to the feudal regime. Indeed, in democracy, access to power is done according to pre-defined rules, with the rulers, elected by universal suffrage, responsible for guaranteeing the rule of law and for respecting democratic freedoms and popular participation in public management.

The democratic regime generates political practices endowed with an ethical content qualitatively different from what prevailed at the time of the Florentine secretary. But it already existed – alongside the aristocracy, the Republic, of which Machiavelli was a supporter. By the way, the character of virtù capable of “leading the ship to a safe harbor”, would not be embodied only in individual heroes like César Borgia, in whom he saw the possible unifier of his Italian homeland, torn apart by internal conflicts.

In a virtuous republic like Rome, it would reside in the people, as a collective actor, in their warrior determination and in their civic-patriotic spirit, the strength and capacity to affirm the state's will (PRÉLOT, 1977: 210). For Antonio Gramsci, considered one of the most influential Marxist theorists, the modern prince would be embodied by the Communist Party. The latter, in the name of the proletariat, would rebuild the foundations of the State, placing it at the service of socialist redemption.

Currently, scholars from different schools of thought, critics of status quo, tend to emphasize the role of organized, participatory society, notably that located in the world of work, as the main protagonist in the construction of national collective wills capable of creating an alternative project to “neoliberal” hegemony.

Thus, the construction of a transformative political and social project would result from a broad combination of forces, both within the State and within civil society, led by those who receive, at the ballot box, the approval of the people for the effectuation of changes. The “modern prince” – bearer of hegemony – would no longer be a single entity, but the incarnation of the dialectical synthesis of these multiple determinations.

Ethics, politics and reason of state in Machiavelli

Machiavelli, through his conception of the statesman's ethics – which clearly distinguishes it from individual morality – makes clear the difference between, on the one hand, the public space and, on the other, private relations. A vision that contrasts with that of medieval times, in which there was a lack of distinction between public and private space, between private interest and that of the State, as in the case of the power exercised by feudal lords.

In this vein, the criterion for judging the performance of a public figure is no longer guided by private, conventional morals and becomes solely objective: the success of his initiatives. The ruler should be guided in his actions by the “reason of state”. His options will be dictated by the consequences (good or bad) they will have for the success of his initiatives (ethics of responsibility) and never by moral convictions (ethics of conscience). The means used are good by definition when they are intended to preserve the State, the highest value, beyond which nothing exists.

Therefore, it is not possible to consider immoral the action of the statesman to virtù, when it is focused on realizing the supreme value: the good of the State. The question of the relationship between means and ends is only posed when the subject identifies a conflict between the first and second due to some moral and ethical conviction clashing with the means adopted to achieve certain ends.

For the thinker from Florence, who was also Second Chancellor of that republic, there is no dilemma in this regard. On the contrary, ethics in public life is fully realized when the statesman acts in defense of the State, and the means used for this defense are always good, given the characteristics of political action. It can be seen, then, that “political logic has nothing to do with the ethical virtues of individuals in their private lives. What could be immoral from the point of view of private ethics can be virtù in politics” (CHAUÍ, 2000: 397).

In other words, Machiavelli inaugurates the idea of ​​political values ​​measured by practical effectiveness and social utility, removed from the standards that regulate the private morality of individuals. "O ethos politician and the ethos morals are different and there is no greater weakness than the moralism that masks the real logic of power” (CHAUÍ, 2000: 397). Machiavelli did not, contrary to what is publicized, make a gratuitous apology for force. Its use must be virtuoso, it is only in case of necessity, as the cunning of the fox is preferable to the violence of the lion.

His position could not have been any different, considering the time he lived in, characterized by the presence of the most brutal violence in social relations, an omnipresent ingredient and the main support of power in the concrete political relations existing at the time. It is enough to remember that the head of the Government that preceded the one in which Machiavelli participated in the Republic of Florence – Savonarola – was burned at the stake, like many other “heretics”. He himself did not escape torture after the fall of the Government of which he was a part.

It is in this context that the moral advocated by Machiavelli is situated: “which is that of the citizen, the man who builds the State, a worldly morality” which “emerges from the real relationships that are established between human beings” (GRUPPI, 1978:11). . An ever-remembered example of how Machiavelli distinguishes between public and private ethics is the comment on the murder of Remus by his brother Romulus – the two founders of Rome “one can be blamed for the concrete actions he has committed, and justified by their result. And when the result is good, as in the example of Romulus, justification will not be lacking. Only actions whose violence aims to destroy, instead of repairing” (MAQUIAVEL: 1979:49).

That is, if the perspective of the analysis were that of private morality, one could speak of a heinous crime, a fratricide. However, Remo's death, by eliminating a division that weakens power, strengthens the State, and thus is justified from the point of view of the public interest. From this perspective, the thinker from Florence “confers supreme value to the authority of the State and considers integral devotion to the Fatherland as the ultimate purpose of human life” (MORAES, 1981: 19)

Ethics, politics and reason of state after Machiavelli

Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, acted within the parameters of conduct defended by Machiavelli. He took extreme measures to ensure the consolidation of the revolution that bore his name, by ordering the shooting, in 1823, of one of the heroes of his liberation struggles, General Manuel Piar, for the fact that he developed, together with the officers, actions that compromised their authority. He applied the harshest sentence to him, so that his decision would be exemplary. Even if, because he was obliged to proceed in this way, the day of Piar's execution was, according to him, “the worst day of his life”.

As Gabriel Garcial Márquez says, Simon Bolivar “would repeat for the rest of his life that it was a political demand that saved the country, persuaded the rebels and avoided civil war. In any case, it was the most ferocious act of power in his life, but also the most opportune, whereby the general immediately consolidated his authority, unified command and cleared the path of his glory” (2007: 230).

Based on the same ethics, in 1945, with France still at war against Nazism, a Court composed of members of the Resistance and parliamentarians condemned, in a judgment considered “horrible” and “shameful”, by personalities of different political currents, to the penalty capital, Pierre Laval, for his role as President of the Council of Ministers during the collaborationist Vichy government. The Head of State, General De Gaulle, could have commuted his sentence, but he did not, as this gesture of complacency, in a period of national reconstruction, would have raised strong popular protests, with a serious risk to the stability of institutions, in a period of national reconstruction (LACOUTURE: 1970, p. 152).

However, the preservation of the State, and of its governability, is currently carried out in the full force of democratic regimes, without the use of arbitrary violence and with ethical standards compatible with republican and democratic values.

Let us examine, in practice, with some examples, this issue in Brazil.

An interview granted, in September 2009, to Rede Bandeirantes de Televisão, by the then Minister of Justice, Tarso Genro, brings to the fore the reflection on decisions taken in the name of political stability. He justified the position of then-President Lula, who framed, in the name of governability, PT senators in favor of opening an investigation against José Sarney, accused, in the Ethics Council of the Federal Senate, of nepotism and various other illegalities (2009).

The first version of this article, published in 2010, reads, in this regard, the following: “the aforementioned choice, sacrificing ethics to Realpolitik, imposed by the need to maintain political support for President Lula's government, prevented cracks in the “allied base”. However, in the medium and long term, this option may, according to a certain critical approach, contribute to the weakening of governability, insofar as it will deepen the gap between the “political class” and the aspirations of practically all of civil society. . Indeed, it tends to demand from statesmen respect for the law and the republican principles enshrined in the country's constitution” (LYRA: 2011, p.21-22).

In other words: in a democracy, it is not possible, in the name of preserving governance or the permanence of a political project, whatever it may be, to pretend to superimpose a supposed “reason of State” over respect for ethics, legality and transparency. .

The hypothesis raised in 2010 was largely confirmed. The ethical "sinking" of the PT government, wide open with the Lava Jato processes and the so-called "Petrolão", translated into the full insertion of the PT in the realpolitik, who fought so hard. In the opinion of the former governor of Rio Grande do Sul and former national President of that Party, Olívio Dutra, by accepting party coalitions that “diseducate”, “practicing the policy of “giving what you get” the PT has become an equal party others, or even worse (SARDINHA, 2016). And because of that, it lost much of its credibility and political strength.

It was also later confirmed the correctness of the opinion of the former Minister and former Governor of Ceará, Ciro Gomes, when he quoted Gramsci regarding the relationship between ethics and the left, considering that the latter cannot abdicate their “moral and intellectual hegemony”. . For Gomes, it is inherent to a project to which public ethics based on the republican principles of impersonality, morality and transparency are necessarily associated (GOMES:2009).

The aversion of many to Machiavelli's ideas on public ethics, commented above, was, especially until the recent past, the price to pay for those who demystified an ethical discourse, based on the inseparable character of public and private morals that, throughout history, Middle Ages, served as a way of legitimizing privileges.

There is therefore no doubt that the distinction between private and public morality, initiated by Machiavelli, constitutes a basic postulate of the very existence of the State. However, its action, at present, can only be successful, and therefore realistic, if “in the conceptualization of its objectives and in the choice of the necessary means to achieve them” it is guided by “ethical values ​​and legal principles that favor a solidary and more harmonious coexistence with the other States” (MORAES: 1981: 28).

From Machiavelli to the present day – especially since the creation of the UN, on June 26, 1945 – the international community has built, albeit in an incipient way, rules for international coexistence, such as the peaceful resolution of conflicts between nations, anchored acceptance of democratic values ​​and respect for human and citizen rights, guiding principles of state power action. These are the modern limits of “reason of state”.

Such principles and rules contribute to curb the hegemony of the great powers, while the utopia of a supranational democratic power is not effective, which guarantees, based on the equality of States' rights, peace and justice among nations. It is about, as Bobbio wants – a disciple of Machiavellian realism – to elaborate a moral code for politics itself, distinct, evidently, from common morality, in consonance with the principle of effectiveness in obtaining the ends pursued by the statesman (MELLO, 2003: 72).

It is imperative, however, to recognize that this relative democratization of international relations, which has as its landmark the recognition of the universal scope of human rights, expresses an undeniable rapprochement between public and private morals. Henceforth, the statesman's behavior is guided by norms whose ethical content also affects, to a certain extent, the sphere of individual relationships. Mello cites, in this regard, Bobbio, for whom human rights, peace and democracy would be placed above the so-called “reason of State”, tending to reduce, little by little, the space for decisions taken based on the use of this reason (MELLO, 2003:162).

The secularization of politics and the empirical-comparative method

Until Machiavelli – and even for a long time after – man's behavior in society, especially in politics, was explained by transcendental factors (God, nature or reason), prior and external to politics itself. Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Jan Hus and Machiavelli are pioneers in that they broke, in philosophy, science, religion and politics, with the monopoly of knowledge and power of the Church.

The stratification in the feudal period (feudal lords and serfs), supposedly natural, expression of the divine will, questioned by Machiavelli, illustrates this statement. Thus, the Florentine secretary “cut all the ties of subordination, theological and moral, in which, in the Middle Ages, the hierarchical system of Christianity had limited temporal power and refused to recognize any value or right superior to the will of the State, erecting the latter in a supreme source of justice and morality” (MORAES, 1981:21).

Machiavelli's writings secularize politics, that is, they remove the religious explanation for understanding power. Its current origin and conformation are understood as being the result of the clash between social classes with contradictory interests. Machiavelli's rupture consists, therefore, in expelling religion from politics, radically separating the city of God from the city of men, the sacred from the profane, the public from the private.

The study of the formation, conservation and loss of political power, with Machiavelli, incorporates elements of scientific analysis, as this thinker focuses on the effective reality of the relations produced by praxis of man in society, and builds his analysis from this truth, concretely demonstrated, and not by supposed determinations external to social life.

Thus, the Florentine thinker sought to understand the political life of his time, from his position as a privileged observer and actor – Second Chancellor of the Republic of Florence – how it effectively unfolded. And he compared his own experience with the lessons of the past, drawn from the great political works of Greco-Roman antiquity. This method, backed by scientific elements of analysis, allowed him to draw lessons for the political life of his time.

Machiavelli uses the empirical-comparative method, structured on the repetition of history and on the existence of invariable patterns of human behavior. Thus, “after determining the causes of the prosperity and decay of ancient States, an analytical model can be composed for the study of contemporary societies, since the same causes correspond to the same effects” (MARTINS, 1979, p. XXVI), excluded every possibility of external, transcendental determination (GUILHON, 1980:60).

In conclusion, it was the Florentine scholar who gave the State “its central meaning as a sovereign power that legislates and is capable of deciding, without sharing this power with anyone, on questions both external and internal to a community. That is, the power that performs the secularization of plenitudo potestatis” (CHÂTELET, 1982: 38).

republic and principality

All of Machiavelli's manifestations show his status as a republican, defender of dissent, law and freedom. Thus, “it is useful and necessary that the laws of the republic grant the masses a legitimate means of expressing the anger that a citizen can inspire in them; when this regular means does not exist, it resorts to extraordinary means: and there is no doubt that the latter produce greater evils than those that could be attributed to the former” (1994: p. 41).

However, stability and security in social relations are not the only aspects valued by Machiavelli. For him, this essential characteristic of a republican regime, the collective interest “which makes the States great” […] “is only respected in the Republic”. As, incidentally, “everything that can bring general advantage is achieved in it without obstacles” (1994:198).

There is, however, a Machiavelli – much better known – who admits the need for absolute power, but only in exceptional situations. This happens mainly in two situations. When a country plunges into decadence, with its institutions corroded, when social and political stability is threatened, or when a historic occasion arises to unify a divided nation, as was Italy in its time. Thus, for Machiavelli “the providential man is never a tyrant: his heroism is realized in the shaping of the convenient form for the matter, which is the people” (MARTINS: 1979: p. XX).

In such circumstances “a wise legislator, animated by the exclusive desire to serve, not personal interests, but those of the public; to work, not on behalf of his own heirs, but for the common fatherland, he will spare no effort to retain all authority in his hands. And no enlightened spirit will reproach anyone who has used an extraordinary action to establish a kingdom or a republic” (MACHIAVEL: 1994 p. 49).

According to Barros, this figure reminds us of the “transitional dictator – the new prince – capable of unifying his homeland, providing it with just laws and preparing the republican future; this dictatorial figure is inspired by the institution of the roman dictatorship, which was activated – in exceptional situations – in order to, subtracting rights and freedoms, maintain peace and ensure the public salvation of this institution. It would be inspired by what we know today as the State of Siege, State of Exception, Martial Law, etc” (2010:119).

It can be seen that, even when dealing with a non-republican form of government, Machiavelli discards the possibility of success for the one who comes to power, based solely on force. Thus, "it is necessary for the prince to be a friend of the people, otherwise he will have no remedy in adversity." Even “whoever becomes prince against popular opinion, by the favor of the Great Ones, must first of all conquer the people” (1979: 40).

The founding prince works, therefore, as an agent of transition. This, sometimes, can last for centuries, as occurred during the period of European absolute monarchs. Would these these resemble the founding princes, conceived by the Florentine scholar?

They built national states, centralizing political power, which allowed them to arbitrate disputes between the declining nobility and the rising bourgeoisie. .Initially acting as a mere expression of the interests of the nobility, they were able, however, with the growing protagonism of the bourgeoisie, to gradually incorporate their interests. In addition, they prevented, in several cases, the transition to a new regime from ending in a violent rupture.

Redefined the correlation of forces, social life resumes its course and normality “the intelligence of the political problem does not arise from the appreciation of the types of government – ​​monarchical or tyrannical, aristocratic or oligarchic – but from the game of social forces that act in it” action of forces, social life regains its balance and the Nation rediscovers normality, adopting institutions based on the existence of laws and the guarantee of freedom, adopting institutions based on the existence of laws and the guarantee of freedoms.

From the analyzes above, it is evident that “the intelligence of the problem does not arise from the appreciation of the forms of government – ​​monarchical or tyrannical, aristocratic or oligarchic – but from the game of social forces that act in it” (LEFORT: 1986:473-474).

In the XNUMXth century, one of the figures that best embodied the “modern prince” was General De Gaulle. A virtue, translated into his political skill, exceptional charisma, courage, rare sense of opportunity and passionate patriotism, always accompanied by Fortune, allowed him, in recent moments in French history, to foresee the direction in which the winds were blowing and thus “steer the ship to safe harbor”.

In this way, he galvanized all the energies of the nation, as an authentic savior of the homeland, in two crucial moments: in the uncontested leadership of the armed struggle against Nazi-fascism, at the head of the French Resistance, in the period from 1940 to 1945. when, in 1958, he prevented a civil war between his compatriots, peacefully assuring the recognition of Algeria as a sovereign nation. “The most illustrious of the French”, recognized as such even by his political opponents, was also the creator and builder of the Fifth Republic, which restored stability and reliability to his country's political institutions (COOK: 2008, p.353).

Dissensus, freedom and law: the dialectical vectors of stability and progress

The perception of social life as it is – crossed by conflicts and dissensions – is the first condition for the formulation of analyzes capable of understanding the real role of the State in society, a necessary prerequisite for any democratic conception of social life.

Machiavelli, also in this theme, is a pioneer. In Chapter IX of The Prince he found, in all societies, the existence of two opposing forces “and this arises from the fact that the people do not want to be governed or oppressed by the great and these want to govern and oppress the people” (MAQUIAVEL: 1979 , p. 39).

Considering that society is divided into antagonistic classes with opposing interests and that this antagonism is the result of oppression, represents an avant-garde analysis, of blinding lucidity, even more so when compared to the theological vision of power, dominant in its time. For him, the struggle of opposites expresses social conflicts that are legitimate, and, more than that: they constitute the engine of social life.

It was necessary to wait for the XNUMXth century for such an interpretation to surface again, now inserted in the Marxist dialectic of class struggle. Demolishing, revolutionary analysis of the ideological illusion entertained by the Church, for whom the social stratification existing in the medieval period was natural, an expression of the divine will, from which the “common good” would be derived, supposedly built by the complementarity of the interests of the upper and lower classes (hereditary aristocracy and serfs).

The title of chapter IV, of Book I, Disunity between the people and the Senate of Rome was the cause of the greatness and freedom of the Republic, from the work of the remarkable thinker from Florence. Commentaries on the first decade of Livy, represents a lapidary synthesis of this chapter. Machiavelli saw in the free play of social interests, in the clash of opposites, the conscious exercise of citizenship, the generating source of social progress. Consequently, the best way to guarantee freedom and stability in social relations.

Interpreting Machiavelli, Bignotto states that “More radically still, we can say that it is from the propensity for conflict that the possibility of freedom is born. Freedom is, therefore, the result of conflicts, a possible solution to a struggle that cannot be extinguished by any human creation (1991:87).

One can see that Machiavelli emphasizes the importance of dissent, the ingredient that best qualifies democracy. This, in order to fully exist, needs not only to bear as a foundation “rules of the game”, previously established, accepted by all, but also to incorporate, in its laws and in its praxis, the effective recognition of the contradictory, of the different, of those social forces that are not necessarily willing to accept the dominant values ​​of the society of which they are a part.

In order to evaluate Machiavelli's pioneering spirit, it is important to emphasize that the dominant ideology, until our days, remains attached to the conception according to which social relations are naturalized, and the State considered the promoter of the “common good”.

In the chapter under analysis, the author of the Comments it also shows that the republican regime, based on the guarantee of freedoms and the existence of laws, is the most efficient way to maintain order, with the least social and political cost.

Thus, for Machiavelli, “all laws to protect liberty are born of their disunity, as what happened in Rome proves, where, during the three hundred years and more that elapsed between the Tarquins and the Gracchi, the disorders that existed produced few exiles, and even more rarely did they draw blood. On the contrary, they gave birth to laws and regulations favorable to the freedom of all”.

The conclusion (paradoxical and unacceptable for those who do not reason dialectically) is that there is a causal relationship and reciprocal interaction between order and disorder, contestation and law, discipline and the free exercise of citizenship, good education and “those disorders that almost everyone unreflectively condemns. ” (1994: 31).

One of the best examples of the advances obtained in the clash between antagonistic forces in Rome concerns the improvement of the law, in the sense of more equality, and the recognition of citizenship rights for the “oppressed”, the plebeians, originated in the Strike of the Monte Sagrado, which took place in 495 BC This consisted of the refusal of the commoners to go to war to defend Rome, scalded by the failure of previous promises by the authorities of the Republic. Instead of this, they retired to a hill near that city and launched the embryo of a city, inhabited only by commoners. These wanted more security; change in the law on indebtedness (which resulted in debtor imprisonment); the possession of land and, above all, the creation of a judiciary that would protect them from the will of the powerful.

It was as a result of this act of rebellion that the subordinate classes managed, later on, to repeal the law that allowed imprisonment for debts; recognition of the right of its members to marry members of patrician families and, above all, the creation of tribunes of the plebs, magistrates recruited from that social class, endowed with immunity, and even the right to put their veto to any laws or decisions emanating from the aristocratic Roman Senate.

As Machiavelli points out: “Let us pay attention to the fact that everything that was best produced in this republic (the Roman one) comes from a good cause. If the tribunes (of the plebs) owe their origin to disorder, this disorder deserves praise, for the people thus secured a share in the government. And the tribunes were the guardians of Roman liberties” (1994:32). It can be seen, therefore, that from the clash of opposites, the new emerges, and disorder appears, in the last instance, as the generating source of freedom, order and progress.

From what has been exposed so far, it appears that disorder, in order to generate progress, needs the mediation of the State and laws that sanction it, that is, that incorporate what the conflicts have produced again. Thus, if Machiavelli conceives justice, not as the application of immutable ethical principles, but as a possible expression of class conflict, these must always “express themselves through legal mechanisms, under penalty of destroying the social fabric” .

It is, therefore, in a regime of laws that Machiavelli thinks when he speaks of republics. “The just society is, therefore, one of conflicts, but it is, above all, one that in its excesses is able to find a public solution to the conflict of its citizens” (BIGNOTTO, 1991: 95).

This author cites the example of condotieri from Florence, Savonarola and Soderini, to show that they failed because they were unable to apprehend the dynamics of the society in which they live, “they were keenly looking for stability, without realizing that for that it was necessary to face the profound laceration of their social body. The State's role is not, therefore, that of a neutral mediator, or an impersonal judge, but that of opposing, by force of law, the destructive action of particularistic desires (1991: 99).

And he adds: “Men can even seek the common good, as was the case of Soderini, but they will always be prisoners of the juridical illusion if they are incapable of seeing that the social body contains a fracture that no constitution can ignore” (1991:100 ).

Popular participation in public management: Rome and Brazil

Reflecting on Machiavelli's legacy is of great importance for those who are currently interested in democracy. The greatest lesson of the Florentine secretary is the one that points to the inseparable relationship between the effective exercise of freedom and the free play of forces that carry antagonistic interests. And what proves to be the struggle of opposites, a factor of stability and progress, when such a struggle manages to incorporate the production of a new legality.

This passage from the Commentaries on the First Decade of Livy, among many others, justifies the epithet “precursor of democracy” attributed to Machiavelli: “The desire that people feel to be free rarely harms freedom because it is born of oppression or fear to be oppressed. And if the people make mistakes, speeches in the public square exist precisely to rectify their ideas: it is enough for a good man to raise his voice to demonstrate with a speech his mistake. For the people, as Cicero said, even when they live immersed in ignorance, can understand the truth, and admit it with ease when someone they trust knows how to point it out” (1994:32).

In other words: citizen participation dispenses with the guardianship of the Great (and that of the vanguards lit, as recent history has shown). That praxis it is at the base of the dialectic of social transformation, which moves in the clash of conflicting interests. It is from him that the new is born, in the form of more progress, more freedom, and laws consistent with such advances.

Machiavelli values ​​the exercise of citizenship, having exalted the institution of the Tribunate, destined to protect the plebs from the arrogance of the Great. It is he, in the brilliant foresight of the Florentine master, who ensures “participation in government” – which allows establishing a kinship, or even a line of continuity, with the modern instruments of participatory democracy, such as the ombudsman and especially the Defenders of the Pueblo).

In the words of Constela: (…) Like the water that seeks the lowest level to speak naturally from its source, the tribunícia function reappeared over time and was present under the figure of the ombudsman and with greater language ownership in the institution of the Defender of the Pueblo (2010, p. 315).

But they did not “reincarnate” in Brazil. The defenders of the rights of Tupiniquim citizens (the Public Prosecutor's Office (MP), in the judicial sphere and the ombudsmen, in the administrative sphere) intend to show identity proximity with the Ombudsmen of Iberoamerica and with the ombudsman European, which would be modern manifestations of the Tribunate.

However, they don't have it. First, because both lack any democratic legitimacy. In addition, they also have limited autonomy: the members of the parquet for having their ombudsmen appointed by their own peers, being subject to corporate injunctions, which have proven to be strong, while those of the Executive and Legislative branches, as a general rule, are appointed by the manager and can be dismissed ad nutum (LYRA, 2011: p. 75) .

Therefore, we are, in relation to this specific issue, behind in relation to ancient Rome, where the Tribunes were, chosen by the plebeian citizens, endowed with immunity and the right of veto to the decisions of the rulers. Indeed, the Tribunate was generated in the struggles of the Roman plebs against the nobility. There are even scholars who consider that: “the institution of the Tribunate was the first great conquest of the Roman proletariat, which was the legal instrument to achieve also the others along the path of social justice”. Reason why "the year 494 ac is very important in the history of the city and democracy” (CONSTELA, 2008, p.38).

Unlike the Ombudsmen (which correspond to ombudsman Europeans) who are, for the most part, independent and democratically chosen, what we have in Brazil, as already seen, are “Ouvidores do Rei”, which establishes the limits of their autonomy (LYRA: 2012, p, 185).

Thus, the construction of an authentic public sphere of citizenship could only be forged by instruments, dialectically complementary, of direct democracy (plebiscite, referendum, recall and popular consultations) and participatory democracy (autonomous ombudsmen, public policy councils and independent participatory budgeting). of the manager).

It is about peacefully deconstructing the legal-political institutionality in force so that it gives way to a new public, hybrid spatiality, in which “active citizenship” becomes the epicenter of praxis politics” (LYRA:1997, p.25-28).

Machiavelli: Forerunner of Democracy

In Machiavelli’s dialectical thought, meticulously dissected by Toni Negri, “the order of things finds action, dissension at its base – the motor and meaning of the historical process to be constituted by human praxis that is organized in universal disunity, and it is through disunity that discovers and organizes constituent power” (2002:127).

Another indicative aspect of the democratic nature of Machiavelli's thought is his proposal to create an armed militia, recruited from the people to defend the City-State, and not composed of paid mercenaries. Therefore, “if the State arms itself and organizes itself like Rome, if the citizens experience their worth and luck on a daily basis, they will preserve courage and dignity, whatever the situation they face” (1994, p.395). In Negri's interpretation, with the construction of the popular militia “the crowd becomes one and democracy is born armed” (NEGRI, 2002, p. 121).

The repeated appreciation of popular protagonism, the elevation to the category of “collective prince” of a people endowed with virtù, like the Roman, are in tune with the “I left pris” of Machiavelli with the plebs. Always better evaluated than the big ones, who want, without ceasing, to explore it more and more. In his words: “the people are more prudent, less volatile and, in a certain sense, more judicious than the Prince. It is not without reason that the voice of the people is said to be the voice of God. Indeed, one sees universal opinion producing such wonderful effects in its predictions that there seems to be a hidden power in it, predicting good and evil [...] If the people sometimes allow themselves to be seduced [...] this happens even more frequently with the rulers, who allow themselves to be carried away by their passions, more numerous and difficult to resist than those of the people”.

And he adds: “if monarchies have lasted many centuries, so have republics. But both need to be governed by laws. The Prince who can indulge every whim is usually a fool; and people who can do anything they want to do often make reckless mistakes. In the case of a Prince or a people subject to laws, the people will have virtues superior to those of the Prince. And if we consider both as equally free from any restriction, we will see that the mistakes of the people are less frequent, less serious and easier to correct” (1994, p. 181-182).

These conceptions insert Machiavelli in the historical chain of the great thinkers who, since Antiquity, contributed, with their reflections, to the construction of the ideals of freedom and democracy. Incidentally, for making the people the support of the only honesty possible to be found in society and for the fact of “radically devaluing the pretensions of the great to virtue”, important scholars consider him the “first democratic thinker” (MANENT, 1990:31) or the “prophet of democracy” (NEGRI, 2002): 103).

However, the fact that Machiavelli presents theses with strongly democratic ingredients, far ahead of his time, does not exactly make him a democrat, given that there was not, and could not be, democracy in the material conditions of the time in which he lived. Thus, the Florentine secretary never envisaged the possibility of eliminating existing classes – nor did he incite the poor to revolt – such questions did not arise in his historical horizon. Therefore, it dwells on the perception of class antagonism. He did not manage to foresee, as a result of this struggle of opposites, a liberating dialectical synthesis, that is, the advent of a society without exploited and exploiters.

But he knew how to identify the “counterweight of the plebs”, attributing to this the condition of subject capable of forging spaces of freedom and institutions – such as the Tribunate – that the people needed to curb the excessive greed of the oppressors. Thus, the Machiavellian analysis aims, dialectically “the destruction of continuity and the foundation of freedom. To the biological model, he will always oppose the model of disunity and rupture; to the naturalist dialectic of State forms, he opposes the very concrete determinations of class struggles” (NEGRI, 2002:166).

Machiavelli’s statement (scandalous, in Lefort’s diction) to the “wise men” of Florence and other components of that medieval Republic that the laws that are made in favor of freedom, are born of the division between the Great and the people, “prevents the reader to limit his interpretation to the history of Rome. It obliges him to verify its application in the modern State and to question himself about the political discourse of his time” (LEFORT: 1986, p .475).

The lucidity and pioneering character of Machiavelli's work can be better appreciated by contrasting his contribution to the secularization of political life with the darkness into which incipient democracies in Brazil are currently plunged, where the intention is to establish the protection of religion over politics. .

Final considerations

In the middle of the 2020st century, we are witnessing, with all force, the return of obscurantist conceptions, in Brazil and in several other countries, which have left their mark on their government programs and public policies, when they conquer power. One of its main ideological characteristics in Brazil is “fundamentalism, especially evangelicalism, which is always advancing, causing a toxic mixture between the sacred and the profane” (PACHECO: XNUMX).

This retreat can be better understood by comparing Machiavelli's thought with the religious obscurantism currently on the rise. Five hundred years ago, he secularized the State, expelling religion from the political sphere, by explaining its emergence and that of religion itself, as a product, exclusively, of power.raxis human

The Florentine secretary conferred a relevant role on religion, but only as an extremely effective means of social cohesion, with little interest in whether its precepts were true or false. Religion is all the more important as “to ensure the political community's cohesion and duration, the foundation of obedience needs to be sought in something other than force” (AMES: 2006).

The eleventh chapter of the book Commentaries on the first decade of Livy, his most outstanding work, makes this understanding clear by stating that Romulus, the first monarch of Rome “turned his gaze to religion as the most powerful agent for maintaining society” (Machiavelli: 1994, p. 57).

In the same sense, the thirteenth chapter of this work shows “how the Romans used religion to organize the government of the Republic in their undertakings and repress disorders” (1994: p. 63). But it proves to be harmful, producing a destabilizing effect when a political party or group takes hold of it to use it to their advantage. Thus, Machiavelli emphasizes, in the twelfth chapter of the Commentaries, that “when the oracles begin to side with the powerful and fraud is perceived, men become less gullible, disposed to challenge the established order” (1994: p. 61) .

What Machiavelli denounces is happening today in Brazil. The evangelical vote, for the most part, served as a springboard for the rise of a supposed “myth” (Messiah Bolsonaro) to the Presidency of the Republic (O VOTO: 2018). The “oracles” – in this case, the evangelical leaders (Malafaia, Edir Macedo, RR Soares et caterva) “who sided with the mighty”, intended to anoint the Messiah of a supposed divine choice. Some of them went further, revealing their intention to create an “Evangelical State”. (BARROS E ZACARIAS: 2019).

But the “Myth” is not alone. Hungary, for example, abandoned its secular tradition, uniting with Brazil in the insertion of religion as a public policy. Its Constitution, now amended, makes it clear that the country is Christian, and that children should be educated with these values ​​(CHAD: 2020).

With his destructive potential, Bolsonaro embodies a true antithesis of the “modern prince” (O VOTO: 2018), making us support “a form of power in which the anti-idea, the obturation of the channels of perception, the dysfunction of experience and the refusal of knowledge” (FREITAS: 2020).

Machiavelli's pioneering approach made him a revolutionary thinker, as he helped us to perceive, with translucent clarity, the society and politics of his time – as they actually were. He contributed, therefore, to delineate the contours of the Modern State, its ethics, its functions as an arbiter of social conflicts whose dynamics, praised by him, constitute the driving force of the praxis contemporary democracy.

* Rubens Pinto Lyra He is Professor Emeritus at UFPB. Author, among other books, of Le Parti Communiste Français et l'intégration européenne (Centre Européen Universitaire).

 

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