The Concept of Corruption in Machiavelli's Political Thought

21 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2011

See all articles by Scott Ritner

Scott Ritner

The New School - Department of Politics

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Date Written: April 13, 2011


Famine, flood, fire, disease, conquer, and many other tribulations are to be found among the fortunes that may weaken or destroy states. None of these, however are the greatest of threats to maintaining an enduring state, be it principality or republic. As Machiavelli seeks to educate his reader on the subject of what modes, orders and actions are best for controlling and bringing glory to their state, it becomes clear that the greatest threat to the maintaining of an enduring state is corruption. Albeit, a less often used concept for the Florentine Secretary; corruption (or corruptness, corruptedness, corruptibility, etc.), appears in many different forms, but always as a foil to virtue and an aid to fortune. In order to gain glory and to endure the city must educate its people in virtuous things and encourage them to lead virtuous lives, and even this is no fail-safe. Considering this, I propose that in order to understand Machiavelli’s political thought we must understand his concept of corruption, and its relationship with famous dialectic of virtue and fortune.

Keywords: Machiavelli, Fortune, Virtue, Corruption

Suggested Citation

Ritner, Scott, The Concept of Corruption in Machiavelli's Political Thought (April 13, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Scott Ritner (Contact Author)

The New School - Department of Politics ( email )

United States

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