James Burnham’s second attempt to purge himself of the misunderstood Marxism of his earlier Pareto is the last of the Machiavellians interpreted by Burnham. James Burnham (November 22, – July 28, ) was an American philosopher and .. In a later book, The Machiavellians, he argued and developed his theory that the emerging new élite would better serve its own interests if it retained. Results 1 – 27 of 27 The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom by Burnham, James and a great selection of related books, art and collectibles available now at.

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The Machiavellians

Nov 3, Reviews. S eventyyears ago, James Burnham, in the middle of his intellectual odyssey from Marxism to conservatism, wrote an insightful and timeless study of politics and the nature of political power in a book entitled The Machiavellians: In the s, Burnham, then a professor at New York University, was a leading figure in the Socialist Workers Party, the Trotskyite branch of the international communist movement.

He edited and wrote for leftist journals including Symposium and the New International. Several months after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Burnham resigned from the Socialist Workers Party and began writing for Partisan Reviewthen a leading journal of the non-communist Left. Prior to his break with Marxism, Burnham, at the urging of his colleague Sidney Hook, began reading the works of Machiavelli, the German political scientist Robert Michels, the Italian political philosopher Vilfredo Pareto, the French syndicalist thinker Georges Sorel, and the Sicilian theorist and politician Gaetano Mosca.

James Burnham

Burnham went on to write a number of other important articles and books, such as The Struggle for the WorldThe Coming Defeat of Communismand Containment or Liberation? Once in power, however, the Roosevelt administration proposed and implemented policies that directly contradicted the words of the Platform.


In reality, Dante was a partisan in Florence of the Ghibelline faction of feudal European politics that supported the Holy Roman Emperor in a two-century struggle for power against the Guelph faction that supported the Papacy.

The real meaning could only be discerned by examining the rhetoric in the specific context of the time and circumstances in which they were written. Machiavellian political analysis was driven by empiricism, not ideology; facts, not goals. Burnham used the political truths gleaned from the writings of the Machiavellians to construct an analytical framework for studying domestic and international politics.

That framework consisted of a number of core theses, including that 1 an objective science of politics describes and correlates observable facts and eschews advocacy of any political goals; 2 political science is primarily concerned with the struggle for power among people andgroups; 3 all societies are divided between a ruling class and the ruled, an elite and the non-elite; 4 history and political science should focus on the study of the elite or ruling class, and its relation to the non-elite; and 5 the primary goal of every ruling class is to maintain and expand its power and privileges.

He noted that the tendency toward Bonapartism or totalitarianism was completely mmachiavellians in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia; less so in England and the United States.

The democratic totalitarians who wield state power, Burnham noted, claim to represent the people; therefore those forces that oppose the state are called obstructionists or enemies of the people. Critics of the policies of those in power are labeled extremists who oppose the will of the people. It is only when there are several different major social forces, not wholly subordinated to any one social force, that there can be an assurance of liberty, since only then is there the mutual check and balance that is able to chain power.


There is no one burnjam, no group, and no class that is the preserver machiavrllians liberty. Liberty is preserved by those who are against the existing chief power.

Burnham draws a more pessimistic picture as the results of that despotism worked their way through with the help of ideology and what Burnham thought to be universal political forces of elite self-protection.

It is, nevertheless, his most profound and timeless work. All students of political science should read burngam re-read this work because it sheds light on the actions machiaveloians motives of past and present political leaders, both here and abroad. More importantly, all citizens who value and cherish liberty should heed its warnings about the dangers posed by the growth of concentrated state power and the necessity of maintaining and nourishing strong, vigorous institutional opposition to state power.

He is an attorney, an adjunct professor of political science at Wilkes University, and a contributing editor to American Diplomacy. Stay informed and enjoy the latest writings of the University Bookman by joining our email list.

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