Realpolitik: A History

Realpolitik: A History

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Summary by Lewis G. Miller

After my departure from Florence I was given the kind opportunity to speak to Dr John Bew of King’s College London, author of the book “Realpolitik: A History”, a book which I recently reviewed.

Sitting there on the morning of Britain’s EU Referendum, after us both calling the referendum result wrongly, Bew told me about a few of the characters who appear in his book, as well as mentioning the famous Mr Machiavelli.

As I am not summarising a chapter of the Prince, I can only recommend to listeners to pay attention to the concept of ‘Realpolitik’ which his book concerns. Like Machiavelli, the scholars of Realpolitik wanted to analyse politics in the real world. How should we act when confronted with the difficulties which surround us?

While Machiavelli is interested in Christian values, as well as the values noted in Cicero’s De Officiis (Of/Concerning Obligations), Von Rochau is interested in achieving the ideas of Liberalism in the real world.

Being aware of the subtle differences between the idea of Realpolitik and Machiavelli’s idea of virtú is very useful for those reading the Prince. Realpolitik, as you will hear, changes in meaning over time but initially concerns bringing liberal values into the real world. Virtú, meanwhile, concerns the astute action which can save a Prince his life and his Principality and bring glory to both (Machiavelli uses the masculine, but women can undoubtedly show virtú).

If you want to read or listen to the review, you can find it here.

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