History of Political Thought 30 (4):575-595 (2009)

The considerable interest with which Machiavelli treats public oaths, executions and religious or civic cults in general indicates the major role he gives to ritualized gestures in the fabrication of the political spectacle. This study argues that Machiavelli's conception of religion has tended to be analysed with the assumption that religion is a matter of faith — or that civic religion is a device of ideological indoctrination or propaganda. A ritual-oriented reading of Machiavelli, however, not only demonstrates how political drama periodically transforms the 'irksomeness of constraint into the love of virtue' it also emphasizes the fact that Machiavelli promotes a ritualized polity without aiming to produce a religious or a political consensus
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