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On Machiavelli — Advice from Italy’s (In)famous Military Strategist

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One of the world’s experts on Machiavelli, UT Austin Professor Maurizio Viroli, reveals the hidden business wisdom within the sometimes-controversial advice of the philosopher and statesman.

Whether it’s his style or substance that makes readers bristle, Viroli says there is no doubt he was politically astute. What’s more, he possessed “a rare wisdom of life — that is to say, the wisdom that would teach us to live a meaningful life.”

The problem for those in industry, says Viroli, is that Machiavelli knew nothing of business, nor was he even tempted to learn. But most pieces of usable wisdom often have applications beyond their intended topic.

Viroli, who taught at Princeton before joining the Liberal Arts faculty at UT, cautions that before dissecting Machiavelli’s writings, one thing above all must be remembered: He aimed to inspire and instruct great political leaders, not the ordinary or mediocre. “If we want to apply his counsel to business, it must be to inspire great leaders — a prince of business.” Can it be done?

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