(From Guardian Unlimited)
Niccolo Machiavelli shocked his contemporaries, and can still shock us, with his easy acceptance of the role of violence and cruelty in worldly success. At one point in his best-known work, The Prince , he argues casually that Fortune should be raped: "Fortune is female and if you want to stay on top of her you have to slap and thrust ' she's more likely to yield that way."
It's a horrible picture that manages to upset us in a way that the book's central theme upset its first readers: what if the Christian idea that politics must be subject to justice was wrong? What if might is actually right?
This was not a theoretical issue. Machiavelli lived his entire life in an age in which deceit and brutality …