Episode 6: Arming the Citizens: Machiavelli’s Quest for Virtue

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) had a rocky career, with great ups when he had influential administrative positions in his city and great downs when he was arrested, imprisoned and tortured. He published his Art of War to great acclaim, yet he had to publish his The Prince under a pseudonym. In this episode, we concentrate on his Art of War and on the republican values which this work elaborates, with its emphasis on citizens’ responsibility for their republic’s defence.

Known as ‘Old Nick’, Machiavelli has long been seen as a thoroughly amoral if not immoral political writer for whom any ruse or action was acceptable in the quest for power and for its maintenance. Our guest Professor Maurizio Viroli takes a different line altogether: he stresses the moral virtue and the goodness of Machiavelli’s approach which, in the context of war, underscores the need to fight in the interest of the polity, the republic and the political community. Machiavelli used arguments of utility to make moral actions more palatable. But, Viroli argues, Machiavelli’s strategic advice followed the tenet that if you love peace, you must know how to wage war.

Maurizio Viroli is Professor Emeritus of Politics at Princeton University, Professor of Government at the University of Texas (Austin) and Professor of Political Communication at the University of Italian Switzerland (Lugano). He has been a political advisor to successive Italian governments and has published leading books on Jean Jacques Rousseau and, of course, Machiavelli.

The views or statements expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by RUSI employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of RUSI.


Paul O’Neill

Director, Military Sciences

Military Sciences

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Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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