Towards Modernity and Absolute Power: Interpretation of Kingship in

Towards Modernity and Absolute Power: Interpretation of Kingship in The Book of the Twelve Wise Men and The Seven Books of Law

McLean, Benjamin

Transcultural Studies: A Series in Interdisciplinary Research,Volumes 2-3 (2006-7)


In Castile (Spain) of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, one finds signs of a vigorous debate on the nature and limits of monarchical power. Attempts to re-theorize rulership at this time reveal a primitive concept of power as an absolute, which anticipated Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince by two and a half centuries. The attempt to extend monarchical power was manifested in what could be seen as a concerted program of legitimizing the knowledges of the time and employing these to construct legitimizing truths within the triangle observed by Michel Foucault: truth→right→power.

Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince has been widely recognized as marking the emergence of modern political thought. One aspect of The Prince which departed from earlier political writings, such as those of St. Thomas Aquinas, was the clear employment of a concept of governance and authority which considered power as an absolute, to be fostered and used, with its furtherance as an end in itself.

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