The Prince is a theoretical guide for leaders composed by Niccolò Machiavelli and is specially dedicated to Florence ruler, Lorenzo de' Medici. Its writing style is simple and it focuses on the guiding principles underlying the autocratic kind of leadership. Though a short story it is a great innovation of the displaying Machiavellian philosophy in the modern philosophy. In this essay, Machiavelli makes efforts to gives advice to the prince on the ways of maintaining power while at the same time ensuring that society the society remains loyal to him which can only be achieved by the prince being cruel and benevolent. Thus Machiavelli identifies four principalities, these are, inheritance of kingdom, annexing kingdoms, ecclesiastic and rule through criminal activities.
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"At this point one may note that men must be either pampered or annihilated. They avenge light offenses; they cannot avenge severe ones; hence, the harm one does to a man must be such as to obviate any fear of revenge." (Machiavelli 11). These are words employed in efforts to understand the human nature in The Prince by Machiavelli. This is a statement that Machiavelli uses to elaborate how a man ought to be treated and how the prince should treat the people to remain in power. This is employment of criminal activities to rule the society. The words used clearly display the great ideas Machiavelli has on how to manage any situation arising, a sign of wisdom associated with leaders. In the quote, it is astonishing to note that Machiavelli puts it across that the prince has only two options, to remain benevolent and destructive. In efforts to remain in power, The Prince must employ power when it's the only last option and not cause harm to the innocent people. There should be no negative effects to the community. More so, he must be sure that through destruction, all the enemies will be eliminated and there will be negative changes of revenge. This is an indication that revenge is a major issue that every member of the society must ne concerned about. Though revenge is a vice that should not be employed to solve any conflict, it is considered as a normal activity as long as it achieves the desired results. One must wonder why a prince of a society must be harsh to his enemies instead of advocating for peace and reconciliation. This makes the author to appear as an advocate for the dictatorship kind of leadership.
Through the above quote, it is apparent that Machiavelli makes efforts to bring into limelight the different traits that the human beings employ to survive. It is through the employment of destructive efforts that the Prince can lose the trust of the civilian or benevolence that he can win the heart of the people. It is apparent that human beings are generally self centered. The human beings actions are geared towards remaining happy and contented as long as their actions not bring about suffering to them. The prince knows very well that for him to remain in power, he must avoid being hated by his people though he cannot be loved absolutely, thereby preferring to be feared by his society. This is noted in The Prince when Machiavelli asks "whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the contrary" (ibid 57). These are conscious questions that any leader must consider while making certain pertaining the society. An indication of Machiavelli's concern about the society as whole. This is because if at all he is hated, he could easily lose his power and status, hence this becomes a reason why Machiavelli advocates for cruelty that does not have a long term effect on his society. The Eclesiatical principality of Italy has lost territories because it lacks military and political rulers that Machiavelli advocates for. A deeper understanding for this quote may indicate that Machiavelli is correct. This is based on the fact that in case the people are not controlled effectively, some conditions may make them disloyal to the prince. Another factor that may support Machiavelli's argument justifying the prince to be feared it that, the prince's main objective is to remain in power and in absolute control of the people of Florence. This call for the people to be obedient to the kind and the only tool that can instill obedience to the people is by instilling fear in them hence the prince may employ cruelty rather than kindness while addressing his people. Apparently, this has made the book to appear controversial since this is not 100% true in our society. There are selfless leaders in the society who have suffered and sacrificed their happiness for their society. Consider the case of Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, just but to mention a few, these are leaders who sacrificed and altruistic while serving their communities. Therefore, Machiavelli's justification may not be agreed upon fully.
On the other side, Machiavelli advices the prince that the best defense against external and internal aggression is by winning the society goodwill and the society will always back the prince. Though many people in power are selfish and greedy, Machiavelli warns the prince engaging in activities that can catalyze hatred in the Florentine society. Here, the prince is deterred from taking public land and closing down the already existing traditional institutions. Despite the advice given to the prince by Machiavelli, the winning goodwill from the people does not benefit all the population and thus, the good will should be a political tool meant to stabilize the prince's authority.
Machiavelli categorically notes that "Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present." (ibid 72) This is an indication that the human nature requires man to be trustworthy during the happy times and untrustworthy through engaging in mechanisms for survival during the adverse times. Men can engage in activities that may make them appear mean and lose their trust worth during difficult times. Such activities may include sacrificing the communities' interest for his benefit. It is common that many people have a high regard for others who have virtues such as piety, courage, generous and honor among others; however, many people do not exhibit such virtues.
"A prince must have no other objective, no other thought, nor take up any profession but that of war, its methods and its discipline, for that is the only art expected of a ruler. And it is of such great value that it not only keeps hereditary princes in power, but often raises men of lowly condition to that rank" (ibid 50). This displays the inherited principalities that the prince must protect. Machiavelli displays that is ambition that pushes men who have achieved a certain class with the society to make efforts to achieve power, while those without any dignified status quo remain contented with their status quo. It is a common feature that anyone feels great when bestowed with a certain class and thus can do employ the entire mean available to protect the class and power. In efforts to protect the power, the individual does not mind losing the loyalty from those below him. Machiavelli notes that "Therefore it is better to have a name for miserliness, which breeds disgrace without hatred, than, in pursuing a name for liberality, to resort to rapacity, which breeds both disgrace and hatred" (ibid 55). It is through this that the prince justifies his actions that goodwill will never be absolute. It is odd for any leader to prefer to be hated by the society in order to remain in power. He further displays how one should use the religion to take advantage by employing propaganda and thereby remain in power. An example of usage of religion to remain in power is displayed ib the examples such as in the Duke of Milan versus the France and the Vennetians (ibid 118)Though it is evident that Machiavelli employs actual historical argument to justify his argument, his arguments about the human nature in reference to the society is questionable and not viewed as an observation but rather assumptions. The present results of war in Sudan, Congo, Afghanistan and Korea are an indication that war is a vice that affects the innocent hence should be avoided at all cost. This makes Machiavelli advice to prince about war questionable.
In efforts to displays that some of his arguments are mare assumptions, Machiavelli notes that "People are by nature changeable. It is easy to persuade them about some particular matter, but it is hard to hold them to that persuasion. Hence it is necessary to provide that when they no longer believe, they can be forced to believe" (ibid 39). Here, the annexed territories must be maintained must be controlled through all means possible even if it involves breaking the promises. This is an assumption that the prince employs to remain in order to maintain his political class through political action. The above quote is followed by a subsequent formula in The Prince that calls the prince to focus his actions towards Y since the society focuses its attention towards X. Though backed up with significant quantity of historical evidence, there lacks sufficient explanation about statement. This is because this general statement carried a high magnitude and since it's not fully elaborated, the reader therefore makes a conclusion that this is a Machiavelli's assumption. Statements in The Prince such a "people are by nature changeable" are not supported by any evidence and this may make the 21st century believe that that was the actual state of conditions for the people existing during the 16th century in the Florentine society. Machiavelli can thus be referred to as a realist, patriot and a cynic.
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