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The Prince' by Niccolo Machiavelli
Introduction The Prince’ is a piece of writing on governance written by Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. He was born at Florence (Italy) on 03 May 1469 and died on 21 June 1527. Machiavelli is primarily known as Florentine political philosopher and diplomat. He remained diplomatic a mission at many European courts in early sixteenth century. In 1512, he was imprisoned and exiled. He wrote initial writings of the book in the form of letters to Lorenzo de Medici. In 1532, after the death of Machiavelli, the printed version of the book was published. Machiavelli strongly advocated that prince (ruler) must be willing to act immorally to keep command and control and do everything that favors to control the state. He believes that virtue in the form of pure or moralistic acts is impossible because virtuous folks will be exploited.
Central idea of the book
In order to integrate the Italian states, Machiavelli was finding root causes of domestic instability and he highlighted that the prince must establish new principalities because (as Machiavelli believed) acquiring and maintaining command and control on new principalities is the toughest task for a prince. He theorized that the diplomatic but powerful acquisition of the new principalities by utilizing personal resources and men is the task of the prince. He gave example that the fall of Cesare Borgia was caused by his dependence on his fathers connections and not on the power of his own arms or strengths. Machiavelli also emphasized that every prince looking for to rise to power
should have powerful and disciplined army that must obey the prince. An undisciplined army that does not obey the prince is very dangerous. He said, A prince must build on sound foundations: otherwise he is bound to come to grief. The main foundations of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones are good laws and good arms; and because you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms. good laws inevitably follow, I shall not discuss laws but give my attentions to arms."
He further stressed that the importance of a prince’s reputation as the good public image, irrespective of reality, enhances his power. Machiavelli argued that political the action must be judged solely on terms of practical consequences. He advocated immoral behavior in the form of killing of innocents and dishonesty as it is an effective tool in politics. In this regard. Machiavelli said, “If the ruler wants to keep hold of his new possessions, he must bear two things in mind: first, that the family of the old e must be destroyed; next, that he must change neither their laws nor their taxes.”
Machiavellianism is a negative term that is coined from the concept of unscrupulous 'clans characterized in The Prince by Machiavelli. He advised princes that it is er to be feared than loved and the ends justify the means. Machiavelli categorically said. “From this arises the following question: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is that one would like to be both the one and the other; but because it is difficult to combine them, it is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both. One can make this generalization about men: they are ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit… … Men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared. . . . but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective.”
Summary of the Book
The book is divided into 25 chapters. The first eleven chapters are about the art of having power and subsequently command and control of the state. Machiavelli opposed the hereditary monarch as such a ruler is unable to fulfill the states needs.
He advised that the conqueror must immediately suppress opposition. The adversaries must be dealt with full ruthlessness. The conqueror must support the minority groups that were previously oppressed by the earlier ruler because they will provide strong support if majority of the people resent the new conqueror. A prince must take over by creating class conflict among noble and general people. The people who are used to dictatorship may or may not resist a new conqueror but people of democracy are resentful for their deprivation of freedom and such people will put full efforts to regain their status. Machiavelli said, “But in republics there is more vitality, greater hatred, and more desire for vengeance. which will never permit them to allow the monarchy of their former liberty to rest: so that the safest way is to destroy them or reside there.” The safe way for a new prince is a complete destruction of the institutions, traditions and customs of the free people. The new conqueror must be strong and firm to bring changes in the society as people are naturally conservative and resistant to change. The prince must have the abilities of being cunning like a fox with the strength of a lion, as Machiavelli said, “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” The next three chapters (12-14) are about the use of military power. In order to maintain effective military force, Machiavelli emphasized that the armed forces must consist of citizen-soldier. Those troops who fight for money but not for honor should not be trusted. He said that the troops who fight to defend their homeland and to safeguard the virtue of their women are loyal and trustworthy. He strongly condemned seeking help in the form of auxiliaries. In this regard, Machiavelli said, Auxiliaries, which are the other useless arm, are employed when a prince is called in with his forces to aid and defend, as was done by Pope Julius in the most recent times; for he, having, in the enterprise against Ferrara, had poor proof of his mercenaries, turned to auxiliaries, and stipulated with Ferdinand, King of Spain, for his assistance with men and arms. These arms may be useful and good in themselves, but for him who calls them in they are always disadvantageous; for losing, one is undone, and winning, one is their captive." He further stressed that despite relying on auxiliaries (troops from other state as help) the prince must form his own disciplined, efficient and well trained army as Machiavelli said, As regards action, he (the prince) ought above all things to keep his men well organized and drilled. to follow incessantly the chase, by which he accustoms his body to hardships, and learns something of the nature of localities. and gets to find out how the mountains rise, how the valleys open out, how the plains lie, and to understand the nature of rivers and marshes, and in all this to take the greatest care." The next four chapters (15-18) are about the disagreeable reputation of the prince. Machiavelli strongly advised that the prince must secure his power by all means. He described human nature as dominated by egoistic drive and a wise prince would avoid too much freedom. Machiavelli said, Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain." The prince who is generous must publicize this fact and the people will soon hate a policy of lavish spending, for they will realize that they themselves are paying for it. On the other hand. a prince who is economical will initially face opposition but finally the people will appreciate the prince for being caring towards the property of people. A ruler must not have kindness in his personality as his prime responsibility is to keep the state together. But on the other hand, the ruler should have respect and affection for his people, preferably respect. The prince must execute his people but avoid taking heritage/patrimony as Machiavelli said, “Men sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.”
The next seven chapters (19-25) are about the advice to princes/rulers regarding strengthening their powers. Machiavelli advised prince that he must craft favorable image in the minds of the people. They (people) must have perception that the prince is courageous, determined, honest and firm. Machiavelli said, “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” In case of war between two states in the neighborhood. the prince must support the weaker state in order to maintain balance of power in the region. The prince must be careful and focused while selecting, appointing and giving offices to the advisers and officers and disloyal one must be punished severely. Machiavelli said, “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” A prince must pay attention to the inputs received from his advisors/officers carefully and give importance to them if the inputs are valuable.
Conclusion and Analysis
The Prince is unquestionably an amazing book. Although this book was written about 500 years ago yet still its big portions are applicable to this era of digitization. Many people in the history praised this book and many philosophers acknowledged Machiavelli as a leading personality in the field of political science. Machiavelli leadingly introduced a rational approach towards analyzing government and politics. Although, Machiavelli is harsh and immoral in his ideas yet he has also consistently been considered true in his philosophy. The governments still require power and balance of power. Overall, the book has been proved as a classical piece of literature in the field. Machiavelli disregards morals and virtues such as honesty in political dealings as he believes that “It is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic and to be a great pretender and dissembler”. I think that if deceptive acts were met with equal ruthlessness, a never ending cycle of deception would develop. To Machiavelli. it is fundamentally necessary and acceptable to manipulate others with absolute disregard of emotions and moral principles for obtaining and maintaining power. He considers the ruthless emperors as very rational personalities. Resultantly, after studying this book, some weak souls and negative personalities further strengthen their Machiavellian behaviors and attitudes with the tendency to manipulate and exploit others. They (Machiavellians) are the individuals who. in order to seek success, are ready to use all immoral, unlawful and unethical means. To me, rule of law is paramount for good governance as nobody is above the law in any case or in any situation.