Prince: With Related Documents (The Bedford Series of History and Culture) / Edition 1

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Overview

Widely read for its insights into history and politics, The Prince is one of the most provocative works of the Italian Renaissance. Based on Niccolò Machiavelli’s observations of the effectiveness of both ancient and contemporary statesmen, the rules for governing set forth in his manual were considered radical and harsh by his contemporaries and shocking to many since then. This major new edition combines an accurate and accessible new translation with important related documents, many of which appear here in English for the first time. In his lucid introductory essay, William J. Connell offers fresh insights into Machiavelli’s life, the meaning of his work, the context in which it was written, and its influence over time. Document headnotes, maps, a chronology of Machiavelli’s life, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and index provide further pedagogical support.

Described as a practical rule-book for the diplomat and a handbook of evil, this work provides an uncompromising picture of the true nature of power.

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Editorial Reviews

Annie M. Paul

No doubt about it -- this writer is hot. His works inspire countless knockoffs and imitations. His imprimatur gilds the covers of other authors' books like Oprah's golden O. His name has even entered the language as an adjective. But you won't see him signing books at Barnes & Noble or trying to talk over Charlie Rose. No doubt he'd relish the attention, but he's been dead for almost 500 years.

These days, Niccolo Machiavelli is generating a volume of buzz Tina Brown would envy. In the past couple of years, he's been the subject of more than 20 books, including Dick Morris' The New Prince: Machiavelli Updated for the Twenty-First Century, The New Machiavelli: The Art of Politics in Business and Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli's Iron Rules Are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago. For the fairer (but no less devious) sex, there's The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women and for those mischievous little tykes, A Child's Machiavelli: A Primer on Power.

Of course, the buzz around Machiavelli has never really died down. Since his guide to getting and keeping power, The Prince, was published in 1532, Machiavelli's matter-of-fact instruction that rulers must be prepared to lie, cheat and steal to hang on to their thrones -- all the while acting the part of the benevolent leader -- has not lost its razor edge. Even in this era of cynicism, Machiavelli's view of humanity as greedy and self-seeking or stupid and easily tricked still seems remarkably dark -- and to some, remarkably relevant. The little Italian excites so much passion because his works divide readers into two hostile camps: those who admire his clear-sighted pragmatism and those who are repelled by his casual amorality.

His polarizing presence isn't limited to light reading, either. Now Machiavelli is making an appearance in a loftier realm: the speculations of sociobiology. In Machiavellian Intelligence: Social Expertise and the Evolution of Intellect in Monkeys, Apes, and Humans (Oxford University Press, 1988) and Machiavellian Intelligence II: Extensions and Evaluations (Cambridge University Press, 1997), two scientists make a startling claim: Machiavellian behavior helped our early ancestors survive, and even drove the evolution of their brains. In other words, it made us human.

Andrew Whiten and Richard Byrne, both professors of biology at Scotland's St. Andrews University, apply the word "Machiavellian" to artful manipulation that serves one's own interests. In the communal living situations of our early forbears, they explain, those who could make the biggest grab for resources without getting kicked out of the group altogether -- that is, those who were most effectively underhanded and guileful -- were the ones who lived to pass on their (Machiavellian) genes. The competition to be the craftiest of them all created an "evolutionary arms race," write Whiten and Byrne, "leading to spiraling increases in intelligence."

Their supposition grows out of what's known as the "social intelligence hypothesis": the idea that it's not the world of objects that demands superior smarts, but our complicated and nuanced web of relationships. Sounds sensible enough -- but earlier theories had tied the development of human intelligence to the use of tools and weapons. (That dealing with relationships is the more cognitively complex activity will surprise no one who's seen modern-day man prefer a session with his power tools to a long talk with his wife.)

Machiavelli's survival-of-the-shrewdest philosophy has obvious parallels to evolutionary theory (were he writing today, he might thank, fawningly of course, Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins in his acknowledgements), and the researchers have embraced him as a sage. "Machiavelli seems to me to have been a realist, who accepted that self-interest was ultimately what drove people, and emphasized that the best way to achieve one's personal ends was usually through social, cooperative and generous behavior -- provided that the costs are never allowed to outweigh the ultimate benefits to oneself," says Byrne. Though the biologists' work doesn't draw directly on Machiavelli's texts, his steel-fisted, velvet-gloved approach provides the perfect model for the behavior they describe.

Evolutionary biology isn't the only academic discipline to borrow from Machiavelli: Psychology got there first. Almost 50 years ago, a Stanford psychologist named Richard Christie set out to ascertain just how many modern-day adherents Machiavelli had, and how they differed from those who disavow his ideas. Christie created a personality test based on statements taken from The Prince: "Most people forget more easily the death of their parents than the loss of their property," for example, and "The biggest difference between most criminals and other people is that the criminals are stupid enough to get caught." Test-takers were asked to rate how strongly they agreed with Machiavelli's acid observations. Those who endorsed Machiavelli's opinions Christie dubbed high Machs; those who rejected them out of hand were low Machs. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, but there's a significant minority at either extreme.

The unusual origins of Christie's test set it apart from the carefully constructed instruments psychologists ordinarily use. The survey itself measures only one thing -- whether the test-taker subscribes to the ideas of a 16th century Italian political philosopher. But here's the rub: In subsequent experiments in his lab, Christie found that our reactions to Machiavelli act as a kind of litmus test, delineating differences in temperament that he confirmed with more traditional personality inventories. High Machs, he determined, constitute a distinct type: charming, confident and glib, but also arrogant, calculating and cynical, prone to manipulate and exploit. (Think Rupert Murdoch, or if your politics permit it, Bill Clinton.)

Christie and his collaborator, Florence Geis, had deeply mixed feelings about high Machs, especially after watching them trounce other players in games the psychologists set up and observed in their lab. "Initially, our image of the high Mach was a negative one, associated with shadowy and unsavory manipulations," they wrote in their 1970 classic, Studies in Machiavellianism (Academic Press). "However, after watching subjects in laboratory experiments, we found ourselves having a perverse admiration for the high Mach's ability to outdo others in experimental situations." Almost against their will, they were impressed by the high Machs: "Their greater willingness to admit socially undesirable traits compared to low Machs hinted at a possibly greater insight into and honesty about themselves."

One of the many psychologists who have contributed to the now-substantial literature on Machiavellianism is John McHoskey, of Eastern Michigan University. In a major paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, he made the case that Machiavellianism is, in fact, a mild form of mental illness. The tendency to exploit and manipulate others, he says, can be placed on a continuum that runs from Mother Teresa to Ted Bundy. "People who are way out on the far end are the crazed Hannibal Lecter psychopaths," he explains. "But in the middle, there's still a lot of room for differences, and the people who score on the high end you can think of as Machiavellian." (Of course, do-gooders like Mother Teresa might actually be engaging in a less blatant and therefore more sophisticated form of Machiavellianism. As Byrne notes, the ultimate Machiavellian bargain may be the one made with God.)

McHoskey's article argued that high Machs possess, to a greater or lesser degree, the qualities associated with classic psychopaths: a lack of remorse, pathological lying, glibness and superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth. Even so, he refuses to denounce Machiavellians outright, however, cautioning that it all depends on context. We want our spies and sometimes our diplomats to be devious in the nation's service. Elected officials and other administrators must be at least a little Machiavellian to get anything done. A degree of impersonality toward human life is essential in a doctor performing bypass surgery, or a soldier engaged in warfare. Plus, McHoskey points out, true low Machs are kind of sucky. "They're the extreme opposite of someone who's Machiavellian: dependent, submissive, socially inept, shy," he says. In other words, be sure to invite a high Mach or two to your next dinner party.

Psychologists' emphasis on these individual differences in Machiavellianism sits uneasily alongside Byrne and Whiten's focus on the universal processes of selection and adaptation. According to the biologists' theory, every human is the end result of evolution's preference for the sly and cunning. (Byrne and Whiten don't make distinctions between good and bad intentions but instead focus on the means we use to achieve them.) Does that mean we're all Machiavellians? "Well, yes, to some degree," Whiten says. "For example, young children, from the ages of about 3 to 4, have been observed to attempt deceptions and to manipulate social situations to their own benefit. This seems natural to humans, and begins early."

Yet such universal theories on the mercenary motivations of human behavior create a kind of circular reasoning. It's impossible to disprove that we're all Machiavellian because any successful human endeavor -- whether it's feeding the poor or taking care of a loved one -- can be reinterpreted through the lens of selfishness.

After decades circling around this point, some sociobiologists are beginning to form other evolutionary theories that concur with the psychological vision that individual personalities engage in varying levels of selfishness and altruism and use a variety of methods to achieve their ends. David Sloan Wilson, of SUNY-Binghamton, believes that Machiavellianism is just one wrench in the tactical toolbox that humans have evolved over the eons -- and not one that all of us choose to use. "There's more than one way to succeed in social life," he notes. "There are exploitative ways, and there are cooperative ways."

In a 1996 Psychological Bulletin paper, Wilson proposed his "multiple-niche" theory which didn't exactly refute his colleagues' work on Machiavellian behavior but refused to allow it to claim credit for all human success. Some people do get ahead by being slick, Wilson suggested, but others prosper using more straightforward or altruistic approaches. (Wilson is also the co-author of a recent book on altruism, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (Harvard University Press, 1998)).

"There are wolves," says Wilson grimly, "and there are sheep." He doesn't hide his visceral reaction to the former. "It's kind of scary when you appreciate that human life is like a predator-prey relationship, in which both are members of the same species," he says. Wilson describes the unsettling feeling of looking out over a class to whom he has administered Christie's test of Machiavellianism, knowing that a certain number of his students are hard-core manipulators. "We grow up thinking that we have to have this presumption of niceness" about other people, he muses, "and there's something startling about the fact that that's just not true."

But Wilson's message is ultimately an optimistic one: cooperative strategies can work as well as, and sometimes better than, exploitative ones. After all, Machiavellianism sometimes backfires: Its proponents may scheme and manipulate even when a show of submissiveness or an offer to share might more easily get them what they want, and they always run the risk of being found out and then sanctioned or expelled by their communities. As McHoskey notes, Machiavellians therefore do best in highly mobile societies, in which individuals are free to make their own fortunes and the expression of greed or self-interest is encouraged or at least accepted.

Sound familiar? Forget 16th century Italian city states -- 20th century America is a land of would-be Princes, a place where the grifter, the con man and the wheeler-dealer are both celebrated archetypes and real-life heroes. Perhaps that's why now, as the gospel of global capitalism spreads unhindered by other philosophies and Americans reflexively interpret politicians' words and deeds as motivated solely by strategic self-interest, Machiavelli is experiencing a popular revival. Whatever timeless truths he may have to offer, his message is perfectly pitched to this high-flying, high-rolling cultural moment, when image means everything and power is purchased at any cost.

Were he on the scene today, Machiavelli would no doubt revel in his continuing popularity, though he would likely have little use for the academic debates he inspires (students of literature and political science still argue if his advice to the Medicis was satire, all a monstrous joke). "It seems to me better to concentrate on what really happens," he coolly pronounced in The Prince, "rather than on theories or speculations."
Salon

John Gueguen
There is good reason to assert that Machiavelli has met his match in Mansfield.
Sixteenth Century Journal
Library Journal
First published in 1517, this classic treatise on the art of practical politics remains a fascinating and powerful work. Laying down uncompromising guidelines for successful leadership, Machiavelli leaves no room for indecision or weakness, and his text comes alive in the voice of actor Fritz Weaver. The narrator's performance is energetic and committed, heightening the dramatic impact of such controversial mandates as the necessary destruction of all the members of a ruling family, of inflicting violence once and for all, or of acting cruelly for the sake of unity. The text is prefaced by the unidentified translator's enlightening introduction. The packaging is aesthetically appealing but flimsy. Definitely recommended for academic and large public libraries.

--Sister M. Anna Falbo CSSF, Villa Maria College Library, Buffalo. N.Y.

Library Journal
First published in 1517, this classic treatise on the art of practical politics remains a fascinating and powerful work. Laying down uncompromising guidelines for successful leadership, Machiavelli leaves no room for indecision or weakness, and his text comes alive in the voice of actor Fritz Weaver. The narrator's performance is energetic and committed, heightening the dramatic impact of such controversial mandates as the necessary destruction of all the members of a ruling family, of inflicting violence once and for all, or of acting cruelly for the sake of unity. The text is prefaced by the unidentified translator's enlightening introduction. The packaging is aesthetically appealing but flimsy. Definitely recommended for academic and large public libraries.

--Sister M. Anna Falbo CSSF, Villa Maria College Library, Buffalo. N.Y.

Booknews
An inexpensive but high quality translation of the classic Italian Renaissance statement of what has come to be called realpolitik. The translator, Paul Sonnino, presents an easily readable English but also takes care to render Italian words into English cognates or at least to use the same word consistently so the reader gets a sense of what terms and concepts Machiavelli repeated and in what context. Lightly annotated.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312149789
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
  • Publication date: 12/15/2004
  • Series: Bedford Cultural Editions Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 493,843
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 8.17 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM J. CONNELL, professor of history, holds the Joseph M. and Geraldine C. La Motta Chair in Italian Studies at Seton Hall University. He has also taught at Reed College and Rutgers University. A specialist in late medieval and early modern European history, he is the author of La città dei crucci: fazioni e clientele in uno stato repubblicano del '400 (2000), editor of Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence (2002), and coeditor of Florentine Tuscany: Structures and Practices of Power (2000). He has been a Fulbright Scholar, an I Tatti Fellow, and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and since 1992 secretary of the Journal of the History of Ideas.

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Read an Excerpt

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Seventeenth Chapter: Concerning Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better to Be Loved Than Feared

...Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed, they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince, who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or by nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails....

Twenty-First Chapter: How a Prince Should Conduct Himself So as to Gain Renown

...A prince is also respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy, that is to say, when, without any reservation, he declares himself in favour of one party against the other; which course will always be more advantageous than standing neutral; because if two of your powerful neighbours come to blows, they are of such a character that, if one of them conquers, you have either to fear him or not. In either case it will always be more advantageous for you to declare yourself and to make war strenously; because, in the first case, if you do not declare yourself, you will invariably fall a prey to the conqueror, to the pleasure and satisfaction of his who has been conquered, and you will have no reasons to offer, nor anything to protect or to shelter you. Because he who conquers does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial; and he who loses will not harbour you because you did not willingly, sword in hand, court his fate....

Translation by: W.K. Marriott

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface

PART ONE
Introduction: The Puzzle of The Prince
An Extreme Book for Extreme Times
Humanists and Heretics
Machiavelli Before The Prince
The Prince's Prolonged and Difficult Birth
Dueling Machiavellis in Early Modern Europe: The Counselor to Tyrants and the Republican Conspirator
The Prince and the Autonomy of Politics: A Blessing and a Curse

PART TWO
The Document
The Prince

PART THREE
Related Documents
1. Niccolò Machiavelli, Letter to Giovan Battista Soderini, circa September 13-27, 1506
2. Francesco Vettori, Letter to Niccolò Machiavelli, November 23, 1513
3. Niccolò Machiavelli, Letter to Francesco Vettori, December 10, 1513
4. Niccolò Machiavelli, The Thrushes: A Sonnet, 1513
5. Riccardo Riccardi, Machiavelli's Presentation of The Prince, circa 1580
6. Niccolò Guicciardini, From a Letter to Luigi Guicciardini, July 29, 1517
7. Early Prefaces of The Prince
Biagio Buonaccorsi, Prefatory Letter to Pandolfo Bellacci, circa 1516-17
Teofilo Mochi, Prefatory Letter, circa 1530
Antonio Blado, Dedicatory Letter to Filippo Strozzi, January 4, 1532
Bernardo Giunta, Dedicatory Letter to Giovanni Gaddi, May 8, 1532
8. Agostino Nifo, From On Skill in Ruling. 1523
9. Giovan Battista Busini, From a Letter to Benedetto Varchi, January 23, 1549
10. Benedetto Varchi, From the Florentine History, 1565
11. Étienne Binet, From Machiavelli's Dream, 1629
12. Reginald Pole, From the Apology to Charles V, 1534
13. Innocent Gentillet, From the Discourses Against Machiavelli, 1576
14. Christopher Marlowe, From The Jew of Malta, circa 1590
15. Frederick the Great, From The Refutation of Machiavelli's "Prince," 1740
16. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, From On the Social Contract, After 1762
17. Benito Mussolini, "A Prelude to Machiavelli," 1924
18. Antonio Gramsci, From the Prison Notebooks, 1932-34

Appendixes
Maps
A Machiavelli Chronology (1469-1527)
Questions for Consideration
Selected Bibliography
Index

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