Machiavelli, Pascal
Part of the Verso World History series
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272 pages / January 2022 / 9781839760143
January 2022 / 9781839760167

From the master of ‘micro-history’, a reconstruction of two contrasting early-modern thinkers

Through his repeated use of the adverb nondimanco (“nevertheless”), Machiavelli indicated that there is an exception to every rule. This may seem merely to confirm the traditional image of Machiavelli as a cynical, “machiavellian” thinker. But a close analysis of Machiavelli the reader, as well as of the ways in which some of Machiavelli’s most perceptive read his work, throws a different light on Machiavelli the writer. The same hermeneutic strategy inspires Ginzburg’s essays on the Provinciales, Pascal’s ferocious attack against Jesuitical casuistry, or case-based ethical reasoning.

Casuistry vs anti-casuistry; Machiavelli’s secular attitude towards religion vs Pascal’s deep religiosity. We are confronted, apparently, with two completely different worlds. But Pascal read Machiavelli and reflected deeply upon his work. A belated, contemporary echo of this reading can unveil the complex relationship between Machiavelli and Pascal—their divergences as well as their unexpected convergences.


“One of world's premier historians. A born detective.”

“A dazzling example of the pleasure of research”

“Ginzburg calls for an intricate reading of Machiavelli. He points out that the link between the author of The Prince and the author of the Provincial Letters is justified by the fact that both pertain to the broad constellation of political theology informed by the exception, the miracle, the unique case imposed on the norm”

“A treasure hunt in historical sources, forgeries and the reception of texts”

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