The Princeby Niccolo Machiavelli
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If any book could be called legendary, surely it is this one. Its author, Italian diplomat and philosopher NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI (1469-1527) considered it his greatest work. Indeed, his thoughts on politics, as laid out so famously in this brief but profound work, have become so synonymous with him that his name has become an adjective: Machiavellian.
How is political power achieved? How is it maintained? Though Machiavelli states explicitly that he is not discussing "Republics" here, only "Princedoms," this coldly rational guidebook to taking control and holding onto it contains such universal insights into human nature and the structure of human systems that his "advice" serves equally well in almost any power structure. With applications in such diverse realms as business, the military, even role-playing games, Machiavelli's rules for ruling continue to be required reading for students of politics, philosophy, and ethics.
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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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Meet the Author
Peter Bondanella is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian at Indiana University. Maurizio Viroli is Professor of Politics at Princeton University.
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