chapter  2
29 Pages

Machiavelli, Virtù, and the Ecology of War

WithBenjamin Bertram

This chapter helps to see some of the major ecological changes generated by perpetual war. The goal of the chapter has not been to bring the women, animals, and men of a low rank into the vita activa, but rather to call the anthropocentric, androcentric, and individualistic assumptions of this humanist tradition into question by following Niccolo Machiavelli's own logic. In fifteenth-century Italian humanism, dance was the linchpin of aristocratic grace, the contemplation of the divine, and the great and honorable deeds of chivalry, the vita activa. But Machiavelli, unlike his humanist forebears and his contemporary Castiglione, takes dance away from the graceful display of sprezzatura at court and places it in the chaotic world of common, male soldiers and animals. In Machiavelli's world of perpetual war, cross-dressed servants and mules, like the female camp followers who go unmentioned, are not true participants in the vita activa.