ABSTRACT

The altered representation of the state struck me as a political problematic when I first came across Niccolo Machiavelli’s play Mandragola. In this comedy of seduction and deceit, the state does not readily figure as a territorial entity or power regime, but as a peculiar kind of standing, personal, deeply psychological and socially constructed. It is what the king of France has and one of the protagonists, not a ruler but a lawyer, seeks. Perceiving the state as ‘status par excellence’,1 and bitterly acknowledging its elusiveness, the protagonist coins the aphorism that ‘you’ve got to have the state (lo stato) in this land, before even a dog will bark at you’.2 The social weight of statehood allows its possessor to advance and get by in the world, thus the importance of acquiring one at almost any cost.