Frank Deppe's Niccolò Machiavelli: Zur Kritik der reinen Politik

Frank Deppe’s Niccolò Machiavelli is a classic work of German Marxist historiography, and is contracted to be translated by Historical Materialism Book Series. But we need your help!

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Frank Deppe’s Niccolò Machiavelli. Zur Kritik der reinen Politik is a classic work of German post-war Marxist historiography, first published by Pahl-Rugenstein Verlag in 1987 and reissued with a new preface by the author in 2014. At its core, the book is an exploration and explanation of Machiavelli’s political thought, historicized within the context of the early bourgeois Florentine city-state and changes to the state system in early modern Europe. When first published, it was praised in the Journal of Early Modern History as a ‘provocative and successful attempt at breaking new ground’ and one of the ‘most important works ever written on Machiavelli’. Despite never appearing in English translation, it has been cited by a number of historians over the years as a ground-breaking contribution to the study of Machiavelli.

Deppe’s volume begins with a lengthy discussion of Machiavelli’s place in modern political science and how he was used and misused by twentieth-century scholars on both the Left and Right. From here he reconstructs the economic and political context in which The Prince was written, outlining the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the foundations of the Renaissance-era mercantile economy, and class relations in the Italian city-states. By connecting Machiavelli’s writing to the reality of his time, Deppe explicates his political interventions as well as the epistemic barriers to comprehending the economic forces at work, providing an insightful critical assessment of Machiavelli’s political theory.

Deppe succeeds in demonstrating how Machiavelli sought to solve the crisis of the Italian city-states through the construct of a personalized absolutism, ‘the Prince’, allowing for a Realpolitik bereft of all religious, moral, or natural-law reservations to enacting pure politics. As later chapters demonstrate, Machiavelli’s theorization of the political excludes the relations of production and the classes that determine the structures of the state. The socio-economic structures beneath the state are obscured from his comprehension. This leads to a de-historicized approach that results in the autonomization of the political realm. Later chapters discuss the role of intellectuals in Machiavelli’s era as well as proto-fascist and Marxist readings (primarily that of Antonio Gramsci) of The Prince.

Beyond its significance as a standalone scholarly work, Deppe’s Machiavelli is additionally relevant to an international audience because of the status of the author itself. Frank Deppe, one of the last and most renowned students of the late Wolfgang Abendroth, is, by many accounts, the most significant Marxist thinker in the German-speaking world today, who has enjoyed long-standing relations with international scholars in the US, Canada, and the UK, but whose work has with several minor exceptions never been translated into English. Publishing this classic work in English will also serve to make a significant figure of West German critical thought accessible to a broad international audience, and there is no better venue for his work to appear than the Historical Materialism Book Series, which for over a decade has strived to bring international Marxist debates into conversation with each other through our ambitious translation programme.

To translate this book, we need to raise 15,000USD