The Paradox of the Democratic Prince: Machiavelli, Pareto and Mosca on Ideal Theory and Realism

7 December 2017, 17:00 - 18:30

SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building

This lecture will be given by Professor Richard Bellamy (European University Institute, Florence). This is a public event and no registration is required. 


Elite theorists are unusual in having given serious thought to the nature of leadership in a democracy. Yet, like most democratic theorists they regarded leadership as in conflict with democratic norms. On the one hand, they regarded the emergence of political leaders within all democracies as indicative of the impossibility of democracy. On the other hand, they believed competent leadership involved circumventing democracy. They associated both arguments with a Machiavellian realism they believed best articulated in The Prince, and attempted to adapt his advice to princes to offer guidance for leaders in a democratic age. This talk explores and disputes this paradox of the democratic prince, tracing its usage in a wide range of writings that echo the original paradigm to be found within the classic elite tradition.


The lecture will form part of Elites and Democracy in Modern Political Thought (7 December 2017).




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and the Leverhulme Trust (via CRASSH's 'Conspiracy and Democracy' Project).


Administrative assistance: