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Reading: The Advisor: Counsel, Concealment, and Machiavelli’s Voice


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The Advisor: Counsel, Concealment, and Machiavelli’s Voice


Rob Goodman

Columbia University
About Rob
The author would like to thank Philip Bobbitt, Robert S. Erikson, Philip Hamburger, David Johnston, Nadia Urbinati, and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this article.
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Machiavelli’s political works should be read not only as attempts to shape princely behavior, but as demonstrations of a model of advisory behavior. They are a performance of advice-giving, of the dispassionate, scientistic – but also quietly radical – behavior Machiavelli expects of those tasked with speaking to power. This model’s central feature is concealment of argument and rhetorical intent, a feature inherited from classical rhetoric but put to newly expansive use. This article turns from Machiavelli’s appropriation of the “mirror” literature’s concept of flattery, a kind of counter-ideal of advisory behavior, to his development of the classical rhetoric of self-effacement. It argues that he puts this rhetorical tradition to newly expansive use – not as a proto-scientist of politics but as a dynamic political actor in his own right – inventing ostensibly neutral dilemmas, classifications, and frames to guide the ruler-reader, as if voluntarily, toward some of his most distinctive conclusions.

How to Cite: Goodman, Rob. 2017. “the Advisor: Counsel, Concealment, and Machiavelli’s Voice”. Redescriptions: Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory 20 (2): 200–223. DOI:
Published on 01 Sep 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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