Max Weber Lecture by John M. Najemy, 11 December 2013, 17.00, Badia, Refettorio

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john M. Najemy

john M. Najemy

500 anniversary Machiavelli“Machiavelli and History”


John M. Najemy will deliver the third Max Weber Lecture in December.

The speaker is Professor of History at Cornell University. He did his B.A at Princeton (19754) and his PhD at Harvard (1972). He is the author of A History of Florence 1200-1575 (Oxford 2006), Between Friends: Discourses of Power and Desire in the Machiavelli-Vettori Letters of 1513-1515 (Princeton 1993). Corporatism and Consensus in Florentine Electoral Poliitcs, 1280-1400 (University of North Carolina Press 1982). He is editor and contributor of The Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli (Cambridge 2010) and of Italy in the Age of the Renaissance, 1300-1550 (Oxford 2004). He was a Visiting Professor at Villa I Tatti in 1998-1999.

The Lecture will focus on History as the bedrock of Machiavelli’s political thought. Dismissing the celebratory traditions of humanist historiography, he looked to history for the causes of a degraded present. Yet history itself was an unsettled concept for him. He never fully shared humanist notions of the superiority and emulation of an idealized antiquity and recognized the fragmentary and fleeting nature of historical knowledge. He likewise exposed fashionable philosophies of history (cyclical recurrence, the constancy of human passions, celestial influences, laws of nature, and fortune) as seductive fictions that purveyed the false consolation of inevitability in the face of history’s seeming irrationality. Accepting the contingency and tragedy of history, he sought the etiology of Italy’s catastrophe in a critical history of two intractably contingent and conditional phenomena – power and conflict.