Machiavelli, Luther, and the Reformation of Politics

Doctoral Dissertation


NiccolÌ_ Machiavelli and Martin Luther were two contemporaries of the early sixteenth century who recognized a theological-political crisis in their age. Though based upon vastly different foundations, they each diagnosed the crisis, explained what had contributed to it, and sought a way to resolve it. In so doing, their political theories converged. Essentially both men sought to restore temporal government to its place of honor and purpose beyond ecclesial control, and to restore an understanding of political reality so that temporal government could be well founded and efficaciously maintained. Machiavelli claimed that by going to the effectual truth of politics (rather than the imagination of it), he had departed from the writings of others. Luther boasted that not since the Apostles had spoke so highly of temporal government as he. This dissertation accounts for these boasts and their political theories, tracing them first through the common experience of a theological-political crisis, followed by their respective diagnoses and criticisms of the age, their substantive political theories, and finally the common ground between these political theories.

Both men argued against any kind of medieval universalism in government, utopian politics, or any withdrawal from or denunciation of temporal government. Both men saw political reality as imperfect and limited, a world which was morally ambiguous. In so doing Machiavelli and Luther reformed political theory.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04182006-112310

Author Jarrett Adrian Carty
Advisor Michael P. Zuckert
Contributor Mary M. Keys, Committee Member
Contributor Ruth Abbey, Committee Member
Contributor Catherine H. Zuckert, Committee Member
Contributor Michael P. Zuckert, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Political Science
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2006-04-11

Submission Date 2006-04-18
  • United States of America

  • Luther

  • Reformation

  • Renaissance

  • political theory

  • Machiavelli

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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