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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Paul Mattick Home page ; First Published: New EssaysVol. In the latter book, he still tried to explain the problem of power in economic terms, although no longer from the social point of view of Marx but from that of the technocrats.

Nevertheless, he insisted that not the politicians, but those who control the means of production directly, are the real rulers of society.

In the present book he finds that in addition to the economic there are several other modes of analyzing events, bufnham one can reach approximately the same conclusions about history from any number of quite different approaches. This, of course, does not reconcile his former opinion that power must be explained in technical-economic terms — that economics is the determinative of politics — with his present Machiavellian point of view, which deals with the struggle for power in purely political terms.

Burnham begins his exposition of power politics with Dante in order to demonstrate what the Machiavellians are not. Although the real meaning is there, it is rendered irresponsible since it is not subject to open and deliberate intellectual control.

High-minded words of formal meaning are used to arouse passion, prejudice and sentimentality in favor of disguised real aims. This method cannot serve the truth, yet throughout history and down to the present it is consistently used to deceive people in the interests of the mighty.

The Machiavellians, on the other hand, proceed scientifically; they call a spade a spade. Like Dante, Machiavelli, too, pursued a practical goal. But he did not fool himself, nor others, as to the character of the goal nor as to the means to be used to achieve it.

He divorced politics from ethics in the sense that every science must be divorced from ethics or, rather he divorced politics from transcendental ethics in order to locate both ethics and politics in the real world of space and time and history.

He used words not to express his emotions and attitudes, but in such a way that their meaning could be tested and understood in terms of the real world.

And he found that politics is the struggle for power among men. Though it must be said that Machiavelli was often scientific by instinct and impulse rather than design, the modern Machiavellians — Mosca, Michels, and Pareto — have an altogether clear understanding of scientific method. They are fully conscious of what they are doing and of the distinction between an art and a science. Mosca, like all Mechiavellians, Burnham says, rejects any monistic view of history because such theories do not accord with the facts.

And he believes that not only has this always been and is now the case, but that it always will be. Before dealing with Michels and Pareto, Burnham finds it necessary to say a few things about Sorel and the function of myth and violence.

Sorel, a syndicalistthought that if the socialists were to take over governmental power, this would lead not to socialism but merely to the substitution of a new elite as ruler over the burnhaam. This fits him into the Machiavellians. However, he thought that a real revolutionary program could be carried burnnam with the help of an all-embracing myth, which would arouse the masses to uncompromising action. A true Machiavellian, Burnham continues, separates scientific questions concerning the truth about society from moral disputes over what type of society is most desirable.

He deals with the nature of organization in relation to democracy. The Marxists believe that the elimination of economic inequalities will lead to the attainment of genuine democracy. But they fail to demonstrate the possibility of organizing a macuiavellians society. Social life cannot dispense with organization. And by a study of machiwvellians, particularly labor organizations, Michels found that a tendency toward oligarchy is inherent in organization itself and is thus a necessary condition of life.


The mechanical, technical, psychological, and cultural conditions of organization require leadership, and guarantee that the leaders rather burham the mass shall exercise control. The autocratic tendencies are burnahm arbitrary nor accidental nor temporary, but inherent in the nature of organization. This iron law of oligarchy holds good for all social movements and all forms of society.

It makes impossible the democratic ideal of self-government. Pareto is the last of the Machiavellians interpreted by Burnham. Pareto, he says, disavows any purpose other than to describe and correlate social facts.

If, however, any one or more of the conditions for logical conduct are not present, the actions are then non-logical. In logical actions, the formal goal and the real goal are identical.

There exists, however, a tendency to logicalize the non-logical. This leads to the concepts of residues and derivations used by Pareto.

Man, Pareto says, is pre-eminently a verbal animal. Peculiar and deceptive problems arise in connection with his conduct which is verbal but at the same time non-logical. Examining this kind of conduct, Pareto discovers in it a small number of relatively constant factors which change little or not at all from age to age. Residues are discovered by comparing and analyzing huge numbers of social actions.

They correspond to some fairly permanent human impulses, instincts, or sentiments. Pareto, Burnham informs us, is concerned not so much with the question of where residues come from as with the fact that social actions may be analyzed in terms of them, whatever their origin.

Residues may be divided into different classes as, for example, the instinct for combinations, group-persistencies, self-expression, sociality, integrity of the individual and his appurtenances, and the sex residue. These form the relatively unchanging nuclei of non-logical conduct which makes up the greater proportion of human action. Along with these residues go the derivations, that is, the verbal explanations, dogmas, doctrines and theories with which man clothes the non-logical bones of the residues.

Concrete theories in social connections are made up of residues and derivations. The residues are manifestations of sentiments; the derivations comprise logical reasonings, unsound reasonings and manifestations of sentiments used for purposes of derivations. If that hunger were satisfied by logico-experimental reasonings only, there would be no derivations.

Instead we should get logico-experimental theories. Pareto believes, however, that derivations have little effect in determining important social changes. Residues are the abiding, significant and influential factor. But the seeming influence of the derivations is in reality the influence of the residue which it expresses.

‘Only Power Restrains Power’ | The Russell Kirk Center

Disputes over the best form of society and government are derivations macihavellians never reach objective stability but come and jamees with every shift in cultural fashion and sentiment. The first may be objectively studied. The second, however, is purely subjective or relative, since what is internally useful depends on what the members of the community want.

Internal and external utility seldom coincide. Because a community is sub-divided into various groups, utility means different things to different people.

Programs are put forward which, though favorable only to a particular group, claim to favor the whole of society. Though this is not true, the truth is not always advantageous to society, falsehood or nonsense not always harmful.

‘Only Power Restrains Power’

Whether one or machiavvellians other should be employed can be found out only by concrete investigation. The last point interests Burnham the most. Human beings, he says, are not distributed evenly over the scale.

At the top there are very few, there are considerably more in the middle, but the overwhelming majority is grouped near the bottom.

The elite is always a small minority. The elite is never static. If, in the selection of members of the elite, there existed a condition of perfectly free competition so that each individual could rise just as high in the social scale as his talents and ambition permitted, the elite could be presumed to include, at every moment and in the right order, just those persons best fitted for membership in it.

Under such conditions society would remain dynamic and strong, automatically correcting its own weaknesses. But such conditions are never found in reality. Special principles of selection, different in different societies, affect the composition of the elite so that it no longer includes all those persons best fitted for social rule.

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The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom

Weaknesses set in and, since they are not compensated for by a gradual day-by-day circulation, are sharply corrected by social revolution.

It follows that a relatively free circulation of elites is a prerequisite for a healthy society Otherwise society is threatened either with revolution or destruction from outside. Of course, it is not enough to keep the elite more or less flexible. The kind of individuals admitted or excluded is also very important, for the character of mzchiavellians society is determined not only by the basic residues present in the entire population, but also by the distribution of residues among the various social classes; and this distribution may change quite rapidly.

At the end of his study of the Machiavellians, who speak mostly for themselves, about half of jamew book consists of quotationsBurnham summarizes his findings into a few main principles in terms of which he then analyzes 1 the nature of the present historical period, 2 the meaning of democracy, and 3 whether or not politics can be scientific.

Before following Burnham in this endeavor it may be well to point macuiavellians that his present respect for the Machiavellians most probably stems from his previous respect for Marxism.

His interpretation of Machiavelli is, by and large, the long-accepted one of Marxism or, for that matter, jaes all reasonable people. Like science and industry, politics jamws to emancipate itself from transcendental ethics, that, is, from the power of the Church in feudalism. It should also be noted that all the modern Machiavellians Burnham deals with have been profoundly influenced by Marx.

If Burnham nevertheless prefers the Machiavellian version to the Marxian, it is for the sole reason that he believes the former to represent an objective science of politics and society machiavelkians describes and correlates observable social facts, whereas the Marxists do not believe that politics can be an objective science, neutral to any practical political goal. Their theories are part and parcel of the ideologies of their time.

This may jamew noticed least in Sorel and Michels.

It is, for example, a little more than fair to say, as Burnham does, that Pareto was less concerned with the question of where residues come from than with the fact that social actions may be analyzed in terms of them, whatever their origin.

Pareto explained every sociological and psychological fact by assuming a specific instinct or sense for it in human nature. It is, furthermore, not possible to understand Pareto by merely jamed with his sociology, for the latter is closely bound up with his economic theory.

Pareto was an ardent proponent of a liberal system of economics — the only system which he considered logical and scientific. But as there never mqchiavellians, save as an ideology, and never could be a capitalist system of economics such as he constructed in his mind, he could not help losing belief bunrham its realization.

But neither could he make himself admit its impossibility and thus he concluded that there was nothing wrong with his scientific theory, but that the unreasonable attitude which opposed liberalism was too strong to be successfully combated.

Out of his disappointment burhham his theory of non-logical actions and their unchangeability. His thinking of the past, however, was not entirely wasted: His sociology may be explained as a by-product of laissez faire ideology at a time when, due to the development of capitalism, the facts of the real world began increasingly to contradict its ideology, developed earlier.

The value theory served merely decorative purposes. Despite his apparent attempt to search for the causes of social conduct, what is really important in his theory are unexplained actions, witnessed and described by him. The categories of bourgeois economics are thought to hold good for all mankind, under all circumstances.

If it were not for the predictions made by the Machiavellians, most of what they said could be accepted; indeed there was little that they brought forth that had not already been recognized, in one way or another, by Marxism. Of course the wish and the possibility are two different things.