Machiavelli’s 500 year old treatise The Prince laid out central features of the realist tradition in international relations. His premises led him to question the likelihood of efficacious and stable international law and international courts, a scepticism that has present day proponents. Machiavelli’s reluctance was due to a combination of features of human nature and a focus on anarchic features of the relations among states.
The article challenges these assumptions and implications: other interpretations of human nature are closer to Machiavelli’s text, and the current relations among states are significantly different. The revised assumptions should render Machiavelli’s followers more optimistic about international law and international courts.