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The Constructivist Turn in Political Representation$
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Lisa Disch, Mathijs van de Sande, and Nadia Urbinati

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474442602

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442602.001.0001

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Machiavelli against the Venice myth: a sixteenth-century dialogue on the nature of political representation

Machiavelli against the Venice myth: a sixteenth-century dialogue on the nature of political representation

Chapter:
(p.48) 3 Machiavelli against the Venice myth: a sixteenth-century dialogue on the nature of political representation
Source:
The Constructivist Turn in Political Representation
Author(s):

Jan Bíba

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442602.003.0003

Florence may be a birthplace of modern representative democracies but its legacy encumbers these democracies with a component of elitism and oligarchy that depreciates all attempts to revive contemporary democratic political culture through reference to classical republicanism. This chapter reconstructs the discussion between two main ideological opponents in the early 16th century Florence – between populist republicanism defending governo largo represented by Machiavelli and elitist republicanism defending governo stretto whose main proponent was Francesco Guicciardini. The chapter argues that Guicciardini’s proposed constitutional reform of Florence, the introduction of the institution of the senate, originates the “Venice Myth” that is present in democratic elitism today. That reform would eliminate the people’s ability to effectively influence the government’s decision by reducing representation only to collective authorization of the elite’s proposals without any possibility for the popolo to discuss or influence them. By contrast, Machiavelli’s proposals display an agonistic understanding of representation whose purpose does not consist - as proponents of the Venice myth still seem to believe - in reducing or bypassing social conflicts, but in institutionalizing executing them in and through representative institutions. The permanence of this agonistic conflict in and through representative institutions makes modern democracy possible.

Keywords:   Florence, Machiavelli, Francesco Guicciardini, Agonistic conflict, republicanism

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