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Machiavellian Politics in The Prince


The Prince, written by Niccolo Machiavelli, is one of the 
first examinations of politics and science from a purely scientific 
and rational perspective. Machiavelli theorizes that the state is only
created if the people cooperate and work to maintain it. The state is
also one of man's greatest endeavors, and the state takes precedence
over everything else. The state should be one's primary focus, and
maintaining the sovereignty of the state one's most vital concern. The
state is founded on the power of its military. Therefore, a strong
military is vital to maintaining the state. Machiavelli believes that
men respect power, but they will take advantage of kindness. He
believes that when given the opportunity one must destroy completely,
because if one does not he will certainly be destroyed. The prince
should lead the military, and he has to be intelligent. An effective
politician can make quick and intelligent choices about the problems
that constantly arise before him. He must also have virtue, which 
means he is strong, confident, talented, as well as smart. A prince 
cannot be uncertain, because uncertainty is a sign of weakness. 
Fortune controls half of human's actions, and man's will control the 
other half. Virtue is the best defense for fortune, and virtue must be 
used in order to keep fortune in check. The prince must take advantage 
of situations based solely on if it is best for the state. He should 
choose his decisions based on contemporary and historical examples. A 
prince cannot consider whether his acts are moral or immoral, and he 
instead must act in an unbiased manner for the state. Also, it does 
not matter how the state achieves its goals, as long as these goals 
are achieved. Finally, regardless of the personal morality involved, 
the prince should be praised if he does good for the state and berated 
if he hurts the state. Machiavelli's principles have widespread 
influence, and they are quite similar to some of Thomas Hobbes ideas 
in Leviathan.

 Machiavelli has a very low opinion of the people throughout 
history. In general, he feels that men are "ungrateful, fickle, 
liars, and deceiver." "They shun danger and are greedy for profit; 
while you treat them well, they are yours. They would shed their blood 
for you . but when you are in danger they turn against you." 
Machiavelli basically has little respect for the people, and he feels 
as though they have not earned much either. He uses this as 
justification for the use of fear in order to control people. He also 
feels that men are "wretched creatures who would not keep their word 
to you, you need not keep your word to them." This sense of fairness 
justifies breaking one's word to men. Machiavelli also writes about 
how hard it must be for a prince to stay virtuous. He concludes that 
with so many wretched men around virtue is hard to create in oneself. 
"The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way 
necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous." 
Overall, Machiavelli is very pessimistic about the abilities of the 
people. He feels that after examining people through history, his 
conclusions of wretched men are correct.

 Machiavelli tells us that the sovereign must take whatever 
action is necessary to maintain order in society. In time this will 
result in the most compassionate choice too. Machiavelli explains 
that, Cesare Borgia, by using cruelty was able to achieve order and 
obedience in Romangna. This contrast with the inaction of the 
Florentines, who allowed internal conflict to develop in Pistoia, 
resulting in devastation of the city. Therefore, a number of highly 
visible executions can be a very effective means of controlling the 
people and in preventing a major out break of violence and murder. 
Machiavelli also cites the tremendous military successes of Hannibal. 
Even though Hannibal led an army of different races over foreign soil, 
he never had any dissension because of his reputation of extreme 
cruelty. Machiavelli further concludes that it is difficult to be 
loved and feared simultaneously. Hence, one should always prefer to be 
feared than to be loved. During adverse times, the fear of punishment 
is far more effective in maintaining control than depending people's 
goodwill and love. Finally, excessive leniency will lead to ruin, 
because leniency is seen as a sign of weakness. A good historical 
example was when Scipio's armies mutinied against him in Spain.

 Machiavelli talks consistently about the Roman empire and its 
rulers. Particularly, he stresses the importance of having a strong 
army and popular support by the army and people. The Roman emperors 
proved to us many times that a ruler who is perceived to be weak is 
the most vulnerable to attack. Alexander Severus was controlled by his 
mother and considered feminine by his troops. He was a good ruler, but 
it was this appearance of weakness that led his troops to kill him. 
Antonius Caracalla is another example of an erroneous ruler. He was a 
very strong military leader who was a great fighter. Unfortunately, he
became an incredibly cruel and harsh ruler over time, and he was hence
killed by a centurion. Machiavelli also includes the country of Italy
into much of his writings. He hopes to reclaim the land which has been
taken away from them. He feels that Italian princes have lost their
states because they have not had armed people. Machiavelli tells us
that an "armed population is a stable population". The Italian princes
also have not acted quickly, like a real prince should act. Julius II
did act quick, and Machiavelli attributes this to his success. In
reality, the whole purpose behind Machiavelli writing The Prince was 
to try and help Italy free itself from foreign domination.

 The Prince has been an incredibly important book. It was written 
in the 1500's, but much of it still applies today. The book also has
influenced many people in history. Many philosophers credit 
Machiavelli with leading the way in political science. They say this 
because he was the first person to take a rational approach at 
analyzing government and politics. Many of Machiavelli's critics would 
say that he is to harsh in his ideas, and that he even seems immoral. 
The truth is Machiavelli is only being honest with what he has 
observed consistently in history to be true. The effect of his writing 
are still found today too. People still need virtue in order to be a 
good ruler or manager. Success is still to those who can make quick 
and intelligent choices. The government is still supported most by it 
amount of power. However, countries are held accountable today, and 
few would agree that the end justifies the means as Machiavelli wrote. 
Overall, Machiavelli's work has lasted through the years, and it has 
proven to be a classic piece of literature by standing the test of 



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