Often cited as one of the first works in modern political philosophy, The Prince is a political treatise that relates author Niccolo Machiavelli’s theories on state-building and rulership. Drawing on his experience as a diplomat, Machiavelli discusses the important policies for both republican free-states and hereditary princedoms, and outlines the most successful political tactics, many of which remain relevant into modern times.
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About the Author
MICHAEL ENNIS studied history at the University of California, Berkeley, taught art history at the University of Texas, Austin, and developed museum programs as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow. He is the author of two historical novels, The Duchess of Milan and Byzantium. He has written for Esquire and Architectural Digest and is a regular contributor to Texas Monthly. He lives in Dallas with his television producer wife, Ellen, and their daughter, Arielle.
Read an Excerpt
Niccolò Machiavelli to His Magnificence Lorenzo de’ Medici1
Those who wish to win the favor of a prince will generally approach him with gifts of what they value most or what they believe will most delight him. Hence we see princes being offered horses, arms, vestments of gold, precious stones, and similar accoutrements worthy of their grandeur. Wishing to present myself to Your Magnificence with a token of my deepest respect, I have found among my possessions nothing that I value or esteem higher than my knowledge of the deeds of great men. I have acquired this knowledge through my long experience of modern affairs and a lifelong study of ancient times, all of which I have weighed and examined with great diligence and brought together into this small volume, which I am now offering to Your Magnificence. Though I deem this work unworthy of being in Your illustrious presence, my confidence in Your benevolence persuades me that it will be accepted, and that Your Magnificence will recognize that I cannot offer You a greater gift than the prospect of Your understanding in the shortest period all that I have experienced and learned over so many years and with so much danger and hardship. I have not filled this volume with pompous rhetoric, with bombast and magnificent words, or with the unnecessary artifice with which so many writers gild their work. I wanted nothing extraneous to ornament my writing, for it has been my purpose that only the range of material and the gravity of the subject should make it pleasing. Nor do I wish it to be thought presumptuous that a man of low and humble condition like myself should presume to map out and direct the government of princes. But just as a cartographer will descend into the plains in order to study the nature of the mountains, and will then climb the highest peaks in order to study the low-lying land, so, too, only an exalted prince can grasp the nature of the people, and only a lesser man can perceive the nature of a prince.
I hope therefore that Your Magnificence will accept this humble gift in the spirit in which it is offered. Should You condescend to read and consider it carefully, You will perceive in its pages my profound desire that Your Magnificence will rise to the greatness that Fortune and Your qualities promise. And should Your Magnificence deign to look down from the lofty summit of Your eminence to these lowly depths, You will see how I have suffered undeservedly Fortune’s great and continuing malignity.
1. Lorenzo de’ Medici (1492—1519) was the grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
Of the kinds of principalities that exist, and how they can be acquired
All states, all dominions that rule or have ruled over men, are or have been either republics or principalities. Principalities are either hereditary, with a long-established bloodline, or new. And the new principalities are either entirely new, as Milan was to Francesco Sforza2, or are like limbs added to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them, as the Kingdom of Naples was to the King of Spain3. States obtained in this way are accustomed either to living under a prince, or to being free. They are acquired either with the arms of others, or with one’s own, either by chance or by skill.
2. Francesco Sforza (1401—66) was a soldier of fortune who became Duke of Milan in 1450.
3. Ferdinand the Catholic (1452—1516), King of Aragon, also became Ferdinand III of Naples in 1504.
Of hereditary principalities
I will not discuss republics, as I have already done so at some length elsewhere. I shall only concentrate on principalities, and shall weave together the threads I have already laid out. I will show how these principalities can be governed and main- tained.
First, states that are hereditary and tied to the bloodline of their prince are easier to maintain than new ones. It is enough not to diverge from the practices of one’s forebears, and to handle unforeseen issues as they arise. If such a prince is of at least average ability he can retain his posi- tion of power, so long as no extraordinary or excessive force deprive him of it. If this prince is deprived of his state, he will find he can reacquire it if any misfortune befalls the usurper.
In Italy we have the example of the Duke of Ferrara, who resisted the assaults of the Venetians in 1484 and of Pope Julius II in 1510, for the simple reason that he had inherited an ancient principality4. A hereditary prince has less cause to mistreat his subjects, and so is more loved by them. If unusual vices do not make him hated, it is to be expected that he will be loved by his people.
The long continuum of the dominion obliterates the memories and issues that make men yearn for innovation, for one change will inevitably forge a link to another.
4. In fact, Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara managed to end the war with Venetians in 1484, while his son Duke Alfonso managed to stay in power despite excommunication and an ongoing war with the papal forces.
Of mixed principalities
It is in the new principality that the difficulties lie. First, if the principality is not completely new, but is like a limb or extension added to another principality (in which case we could almost call the whole state a mixed principality), its volatility stems mainly from a difficulty inherent in all new principalities. This is that men will willingly change their ruler in the hope that they will fare better, a hope that leads them to take up arms against their old ruler. But in this they are deceived, because, as they invariably discover, their lot under a new ruler is inevitably worse. This is the result of another natural and basic inevitability: that you cannot avoid offending those whose new ruler you are, both with your armed soldiers and with innumerable other provocations that come in the wake of a conquest. You end up making enemies of all those you have offended during your conquest of the principality, and you find that you cannot keep the friendship of those who helped you to power, since you cannot satisfy them in the way they had envisioned. Furthermore, you cannot take strong measures against them, as you are indebted to them. Even with the most powerful army, if you want to invade a state, you need the support of the people. It was for these reasons that King Louis XII of France was quick to occupy Milan, and just as quick to lose it. Duke Ludovico’s own forces were enough to win Milan back the first time, because the same masses that had opened the gates for Louis, finding themselves misled in their hopes for a better future, could not endure the new prince’s offenses5.
It is a fact that once a prince acquires a rebellious state for the second time, it also proves harder to lose that state a second time6. This is because the prince who seizes the opportunity of the rebellion has fewer scruples about securing his position by punishing offenders, flushing out suspects, and strengthening all the places where he is weakest. In this sense, it was enough for a Duke Ludovico to make a little noise along the borders for Louis XII to lose Milan the first time. But for him to lose Milan a second time the whole world had to unite against him, defeat his army, and chase it out of Italy7. This followed from the causes I have already laid out. Nonetheless, both the first and second time, Milan was taken from him.
The general reasons for the first loss have been discussed. It now remains to discuss the second, and to see what recourse someone in Louis’s position could have taken to maintain himself more securely in his new acquisition. I must stress that the states a prince acquires and adds to his own are either of the same country and language, or are not. If they are it is much easier to retain them, particularly if they are not used to freedom. To hold them securely, it is enough to extinguish the line of the previous prince who ruled them. As for the rest, if the new acquisition’s former state of affairs is kept and there is no difference in customs, men will live quite peacefully, as we have seen in Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony, and Normandy, which for a long time now have all belonged to France. Although there is some difference in language, their customs are similar, and their people get along with one another quite easily. He who acquires such states and wishes to retain them has to make sure of two things: that the bloodline of their former princes is extinguished, and that their laws and taxes remain the same. This way, the prince’s new state merges with the old, quickly becoming a single body.
But difficulties arise when you acquire states in a land with differing languages, customs, and laws. To keep these states, you need good fortune and much diligence. One of the best and quickest solutions is for the new prince to go and live in his new state. This makes the possession more durable and secure. The Turk did this in Greece8. With all the other measures he took to keep Greece in his possession, had he not gone to live there he would not have succeeded, because once the prince is established within his new state he is able to see problems as they arise and can remedy them. If he is not there, problems become obvious only once they are dire and can no longer be remedied. Furthermore, if he is present, his new state will not be looted by his officials, and his new subjects can enjoy immediate access to their prince. This will give them more reason to love him if they are on his side, and to fear him if they are not, and foreign powers wishing to attack his state will respect him more. Hence, if the prince lives in his new state, it is difficult for him to lose it.
Another efficient remedy is to set up colonies in one or two places that will act as the shackles of your new state. If you do not set up colonies, you will have to send a great number of troops to secure it, while a colony can be established and maintained at negligible cost. The only subjects who will be affronted are those whose fields and houses will be confiscated to be given to the new colonists. But these dispossessed subjects make up only a small part of the state and will end up poor and dispersed, and so can do no harm. The rest of your new subjects will not be affronted (and hence will be acquiescent), but will also be frightened of transgressing, worried that they too might be dispossessed. I conclude that colonies do not cost much, are loyal, and will cause less trouble. And as I have already mentioned, those you dispossess cannot harm you, as they will be poor and dispersed. In short, men must either be flattered or eliminated, because a man will readily avenge a slight grievance, but not one that is truly severe. Hence, the offense done a man must be of the kind that cannot incur vengeance.
If you choose armed forces instead of colonies, you will spend more and will have to squander all the income from the new state in order to pay the army. This will turn the acquisition into a loss, and all your new subjects will end up offended, since an army, constantly on the move and constantly requartered, hurts the whole state. Everyone feels the pain, and everyone becomes your enemy. And these are enemies who can harm you, because though they have been defeated, they remain on their own ground. So in every sense, using armed forces is as useless as setting up colonies is useful.
It is also important when a prince has conquered a foreign state that he become the protector of the surrounding weaker powers, and do all he can to weaken the stronger ones. He must take precautions so that no foreigner equal in power manages to enter his new state. If he should enter, it will be because he was brought in by discontented factions driven by ambition or fear. We saw this in the case of the Aetolians who introduced the Romans into Greece;9 and in every other province in which the Romans set foot, it was with the help of some of the inhabitants. The order of things is that the moment a powerful invader takes over a state, all the weaker factions within it join forces with him, spurred on by their envy of the ruler who had wielded power over them before. In other words, the new prince has no trouble winning the weaker factions over, because they will willingly become part of his new state. He has only to see to it that they do not gain too much power and authority. With his forces and their favor, he can easily bring down those who are powerful so that he will remain the only arbiter in the land. He who does not follow this course will quickly lose all he has gained, and will be plagued by infinite difficulties while he holds power.
5. Louis XII occupied Milan in September 1499, but was ousted in February 1500 by Ludovico Sforza. Louis, however, managed to recapture Milan within two months.
6. Once Louis XII recaptured Milan, it remained under his rule until 1512.
7. The Holy League of 1511, organized by Pope Julius II, was an anti-French coalition that included Spain, Venice, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and the Swiss. The League managed to drive the French out of Milan in May 1512.
8. The Turks occupied Constantinople in 1453, and in 1457 transferred the capital of the Ottoman Empire from Edirne to Constantinople.
Table of Contents
To the magnificent Lorenzo, son of piero de’ medici xiii
1.Types of Monarchy and How They Are Acquired 1
II. Hereditary Monarchies 1
III. Mixed Monarchies 2
IV. Why the Kingdom of Darius, Occupied by Alexander, Did Not Rebel Against Alexander’s Successors after His Death 10
V. How Cities or States Previously Independent Must Be Governed after Occupation 12
VI. Of New Monarchies Acquired by One’s Arms and Ability 13
VII. New Monarchies Acquired by the Power of Others or by Fortune 16
VIII. On Those Who Have Become Princes by Crime 23
IX. Civil Monarchy 26
X. How the Strength of All Monarchies Should Be Measured 29
XI. Eccelesiastical Monarchies 31
XII. Various Kinds of Troops with Special Discussion of Mercenaries 33
XIII. Auxiliaries, Mixed, and Native Troops 38
XIV. The Prince’s Duty in Military Matters 41
XV. On Things for Which Men, and Particularly Princes, Are Praised or Blamed 44
XVI. Generosity and Meanness 45
XVII. Cruelty and Clemency and Whether It Is Better to Be Loved or Feared 47
XVIII. In What Manner Princes Should Keep Their Word 50
XIX. Essential to Avoid Being Hated or Despised 52
XX. Whether the Building of Fortresses or Other Measures Taken by Princes Are Useful or Dangerous 61
XXI. How a Prince Should Conduct Himself in Order to Acquire Prestige 65
XXII. The Prince’s Ministers 68
XXIII. How to Avoid Flatterers 69
XXIV. Why the Princes of Italy Have Lost Their States 71
XXV. The Influence of Fortune on Human Affairs and How It May Be Countered 72
XXVI. Exhortation to Free Italy from the Barbarians 75
Index of Proper Names 80
Reading Group Guide
Readers have differed sharply in their assessments of The Prince, as well as the character of its author, Niccolò Machiavelli, since the book's publication in 1532. In his own time, Machiavelli was known as the author of histories, poems, and plays (including a widely produced popular comedy). Highly respected as a statesman, he represented Florence on foreign missions and wrote reports admired for their style and substance. But the Catholic Church censured Machiavelli for his criticism of Christianity and for the tone and content of the political counsel he offered, especially in The Prince. By the seventeenth century, the name Machiavelli had become synonymous with diabolical cunning, a meaning that it still carries today. Modern readers exhibit the same ambivalence about Machiavelli himself, alternately recognizing him as a precursor of the discipline of political science and recoiling from the ruthless principles he frequently articulates. Both views of Machiavelli, as innovative modernist and cynical politician, have their origins in The Prince.
Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513, just after he was forced to leave Florence as a political exile. Dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici, the book is Machiavelli's advice to the current ruler of Florence on how to stay in power. It was also his effort, though unsuccessful, to gain an advisory post in the Medici government. The Prince was not published until five years after Machiavelli's death. Leaders as diverse as Oliver Cromwell, Frederick the Great, Louis XIV, Napoleon I, Otto von Bismarck, and John F. Kennedy have read, contemplated, and debated Machiavelli's ideas.
Machiavelli's treatise makes a clear break from the Western tradition of political philosophy that preceded him. Beginning with Plato and Aristotle, the thinkers of this tradition were concerned with issues of justice and human happiness, and with the constitution of the ideal state. Until its final chapter, The Prince is a shockingly direct how-to manual for rulers who aim either to establish and retain control of a new state or to seize and control an existing one. Rather than basing his advice on ethical or philosophical principles, Machiavelli founds his political program on real-life examples. When explaining what a prince should or should not do in pursuit of his ambitions, Machiavelli cites the actions of well-known historical and contemporary leaders, both successful and unsuccessful. Throughout The Prince, Machiavelli explicitly aims to give an unsentimental analysis of actual human behavior and the uses of power. "I have thought it proper," Machiavelli writes of a prince's conduct toward his subjects, "to represent things as they are in a real truth, rather than as they are imagined" (p. 49).
The accuracy of Machiavelli's view of human nature and the social world is debatable. Is Machiavelli simply being clear-sighted and objective, or is he providing spurious justifications for the worst impulses of those who seek power? In The Prince, the results of actions are what matter. Murder, the incitement of quarrels among citizens, the purchase of temporary loyalties, and betrayal: all are permissible—indeed, recommended—if they advance the prince's goal of attaining and securing power. In Machiavelli's view, the preservation of the state warrants such actions, since the state is necessary to ensure security, peace, and order for the people. He sets the ambitions of the prince and the need of the people for order side by side, seeing the two as complementary. Perhaps they are, or perhaps this equation is merely a self-serving way for those who crave power to defend injustices. To what extent the means that Machiavelli promotes in The Prince are justified by the ends, and whether the means actually bring about the ends, remain open questions.
Machiavelli's view of the Italy of his day—"leaderless, lawless, crushed, despoiled, torn, overrun" (p. 83)—underwrites the advice he gives in The Prince. It also leads him to end his treatise with an "Exhortation to liberate Italy from the barbarians." Machiavelli calls for "a new prince...to introduce a new order" (p. 82) that would bring unity and stability to the often warring city-states of the Italian peninsula. In this portion of The Prince and in some of his other writings, Machiavelli appears more idealistic and friendly toward a form of government that would give citizens a say. In his Discourses, Machiavelli portrays the ideal government as a republic that allows groups with differing opinions to speak openly.
Machiavelli thus sets the stage for an enduring discussion among his readers. Is he best understood as a seeker of unity and peace, concerned to make his advice practical and effective? Is he an opportunist offering aid and comfort to would-be tyrants? Do the moral and political goals he outlines in the final chapter of The Prince justify the actions he advocates in the preceding chapters? These questions seem destined to remain with us as long as Machiavelli's book continues to occupy a central place in modern political thought.
ABOUT NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI
What we know of the personal character of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) is at odds with the treachery implied in the adjective derived from his name. Evidence suggests that Machiavelli was an upright man, a good father, and a husband who lived in affectionate harmony with his wife, Marietta Corsini, who bore him six children. Throughout his life, Machiavelli was a zealous republican. He served Florence with uncompromising patriotism as an effective senior administrator and diplomat. But his single-minded service to the republic of Florence ended when the army of the Holy League of Pope Julius II returned the Medici family to power as benevolent despots of the city. In the resulting political purge, Machiavelli not only lost his position in the city government but, when a conspiracy against the Medicis was uncovered in early 1513, he also was accused of complicity simply because his name was on a list taken from the conspirators. Thrown into prison and subjected to the kind of torture that forced blameless men to confess their guilt, Machiavelli nevertheless maintained his innocence and was eventually released.
Reduced to poverty, and with restrictions placed on his movements around the city, Machiavelli sought refuge in the little property, outside Florence, that he had inherited from his father. There he produced not only The Prince, which he completed between the spring and autumn of 1513, but also a variety of political commentaries and histories and a number of well-received literary works. After the death of Pope Julius II in 1513, the son of Lorenzo de'Medici (called the Magnificent) became Pope Leo X—one of three popes the Medici family produced. It was Machiavelli's hope that by dedicating The Prince to Lorenzo de'Medici, son of the most famous of all the Medicis, he would obtain an office that would return him to public life. That hope was in vain. Machiavelli died at the age of 58, still exiled from Florence.
- Why does Machiavelli support his arguments by citing examples of real historical and contemporary rulers? Why does he emphasize his "long acquaintance with contemporary affairs and a continuous study of the ancient world" (p. 1)?
- Does The Prince present justice as nothing more than the interest of the stronger?
- What constraints on a prince's freedom of action does Machiavelli recognize?
- Does Machiavelli believe that ethical considerations have a role to play in the conduct of a prince?
- According to Machiavelli, what roles do fate and fortune play in human life?
- Does Machiavelli believe that political entities are created by human effort, or do they exist naturally?
- In securing the state, to what extent should a prince be motivated by the happiness of the people?
- Why does Machiavelli believe that a prince must be willing to use force to achieve his ends?
- According to Machiavelli, do moral ends justify immoral means?
- How does Machiavelli define virtue?
- Why does Machiavelli end his work with a plea for the House of Medici to liberate Italy?
- Under what circumstances is someone charged with upholding the law justified in breaking it?
- Must political power always be a corrupting influence on those who possess it?
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
I Samuel and I Kings (Old Testament); Matthew 22 (New Testament)
These books in the Bible deal with the tensions between religious and political loyalties.
In this exploration of the ideal state, Book V, concerning the maintenance of political power, is an especially pertinent antecedent to Machiavelli.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
The author presents a grim vision of human beings in their natural state, which becomes the basis for his argument that a practically omnipotent government is necessary to secure a basic level of justice and elementary freedoms.
John Locke, The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)
Chapter 14 examines the circumstances in which government can act in violation of the law or in the absence of law. Chapter 19 concerns the right of the people to overthrow a ruler or government when either has abused his power.
James Madison, "The Federalist No. 10" (in The Federalist) (1787-88)
This essay addresses the problem of factions that inevitably develop among citizens and the ways of controlling their detrimental effects without infringing on liberty.
Plato, The Statesman
One of Plato's major works of political philosophy, this dialogue explores the nature and virtue of a king or statesman.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Many Americans do not understand the motives and actions of the politicians whom they elect. The voters have expectations, but they fail to appreciate that the politicians have personal and professional agendas. THE PRINCE rips the curtain away to expose the true motivations of politicians, whether a "progressive" agenda of Barak Obama, the "left-wing liberal" bias of Nancy Pelosi, the "tea party conservative" blurts of Sarah Palin, or the vague agendas of the smilingly attractive and apparently patriotic and caring (but otherwise unknown) candidates for local school board. Despots aren't made; they're chosen. Leaders aren't born; they're made. Followers aren't created; they're the people who give away their rights and responsibilities to others who offer to think and choose for them. Machiavelli didn't invent the rules; he simply observed the rise and dominance of the most powerful family in Italian history and shared their secrets with posterity. Truth is truth, whether it describes Renaissance Venice during the time of great painters and corrupt popes or Washington DC during the time of vapid platitudes and bloated bureaucracies. EVERY management, business, political science, sociology, psychology, and education major should read this book before completing their sophomore year; otherwise, they'll miss the opportunity to manipulate minds effectively during their junior and senior years...and beyond. Because it predates the hollow pretext of "political correctness" and such laughable conceits as "unity through diversity," THE PRINCE explains what true power is, how to achieve it, how to wrest it from others and wield it effectively, and how to gain more of it at the expense of stupid people who haven't read Machiavelli. The author presumes "the why" is simple: having power beats the alternative.
Had to read this book for school. Not my favorite book, but should you wish to read the classic, this is definitely the best FREE version out there.
AP World History Review This Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is not as it is believed to be by some people. It's not heartless, and the opposite way to rule a government. He has a clear way of stating how a ruler should rule. It's about keeping unity among citizens, and using power, without abusing it. I would recommend this book because it has a way of making you look at government differently. It is also a great way of learning how people thought on military tactics for that time period, which were important for that time period. I like how Machiavelli was quick to make his point; he wasn’t wasting any time making his points. Since there wasn’t a lot of extra writing to decipher. it helped to understand what he was writing. Since the points came straight out, it made the book shorter, which was a nice size for a book on politics. The book was still a little tough at first, but as I read it got easier, it helped that I read Introducing Machiavelli by Patrick Curry and Oscar Zarate. Even if you aren’t a history buff, this book may take time to read, but it is worth the read.
I am a student that read this book, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. I believe that this book is great for people that want to be a leader sometime in life or history buffs that want to learn more about leadership. I would not reccomend this to people that either just want a book to read to pass time or people that are not interested in the subject. I personally thought this book was good because I enjoy historical texts. Last year in my regular world history class, we read an excerpt from this book (or at least a form of this book) and I found it very interesting how Machiavelli included things such as poetic devices to incorporate with things like leadership. In case anyone doesn't know, this book was written during the Renaissance time period. Back to a point of mine made earlier, I wouldn't reccomend this to some people just because people like to complain about the length of books and that the book was boring. That would be the case with this book. I thought it was good, but honestly I was pretty bored with it after periods of reading. But we have to remember that historical texts like this were written back when times were peaceful to where now we have books about the world ending so there is a distinct difference between the two. All in all, I liked this book but it definately wasn't one of my favorites.
Machiavelli has a bad reputation but this is because people judge him by this work alone. This is because he was not wtiting about the way things should be but the way things were/are. For another view of a differing side of his thinking read his "Discourses on Livy". The Prince is a book that should be read by everyone.
The Prince is not the heartless manual on backstabbing it is often portrayed as being. Rather Machiavelli seems most interested in issuing a wake up call to Italian leaders to get better at their jobs so as to protect Italy from becoming the plaything of foreign powers. It is interesting to note that Jefferson could read the Prince and extract not a lesson of ruthlessness, but rather the idea that a republic founded on popular support was safer and more durable than one based on the ambitions of a few selfish nobles.
The truth is I thought that this book was surprisingly not as chilling as some have made it out to be, for example, I realize that when invading befriending the weak to take down the ruler but keeping those weak powers weak is by no means a nice thing to do. But in the end I saw this book as.... optimistic maybe. One thing he said stuck with me that a great ruler(one to go down in history) is not a tyrant who increases his nations size for personal gain but for the country itself. That was on my first reading, I'll reread it and maybe with more understanding I will find it as chilling as it is made out to be.
Some authors make the bestseller lists; some win Nobel prizes; only a precious few are eternalized in the language itself. Machiavelli earned his place in our consciousness and our vocabulary with a single work, ¿The Prince¿, at once a shocking, rivetting, thought-provoking and ultimately unforgettable portrayal of power politics in the Renaissance that remains as fresh and relevant now as it was in the early 16th century. Machiavelli wrote from internal exile after losing his government position with the dissolution of the Florentine republic and the return to power of the Medicis. Having survived imprisonment and torture, he was allowed to retire to his farm where he grappled with the sudden change in his fortunes and took refuge in a study of the lessons he had learned while in government. The result was ¿The Prince¿, essentially a master plan for attaining and holding power. Most infamous for Machiavelli¿s refusal to bow to either sentiment or idealism, the handbook for the mega-ambitious stresses the essentially practical reality of power and warns that "it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state."
Does Machiavelli deserve his sinister reputation? Is he advocating evil in this book? Or only describing it? His focus is not on defending, but on acquiring and governing; that is, on imperial conquest and dominance over others. This book is about aggression. He claims that human conditions do not permit princes to be good, and he is right about that. They never will. But do human conditions compel people to become princes? In seizing a state, he says, cruelty is necessary. No doubt this is true, but is seizing a state necessary? Is it moral? Machiavelli's model prince was Cesare Borgia, a ruthless imperialist, mass murderer, and rapist. Machiavelli admired him for his power, then criticized him when he lost his power. He praises King Ferdinand of Spain for his "pious cruelty," calling it an "admirable example." Yes, Machiavelli deserves his sinister reputation. He worshipped power, believing it to be beyond good and evil. This book is a portrayal of statecraft as it is practiced in the real world, but it is also a how-to book on gaining and maintaining dominance over others. It raises interesting issues, without necessarily resolving them. It can be useful as food for thought, but don't try this at home!
Very gritty, earthy book on the means of gaining and holding power. Deals with humans as they are as the introduction points out. A lot of the points made in the book are in use in todays politics eventhough people may not want to think so. Like every book that I think in general misses the mark, there is substantial grains of truth in it.
I'm fascinated with politics, but I can't read this edition. The font and the paragraph structure are distracting from the actual words. My eyes would not let me finish it.
As has been true the past 500 years, any would-be power monger's bedside table unadorned with a copy of this slim treatise is shamefully naked. This is an excellent translation by Peter Constantine, filled with helpful footnotes and capped by a solid bibliography.
I *think* this book is wicked, and I *hope* that all who choose to read it choose to see its wickedness.And I do *not* feel guilty for saying a book is Bad when I believe that its ideas would be harmful if employed against human beings. There is nothing heroic about being immoral, no matter what Shrewd Policies say so, or what Glorious Nation says so. Also, comparing Machiavelli to Baldassare Castiglione, as is often done, seems to me to be quite mad. Would it not be better to compare him with Hitler or Stalin or Mussolini or Nero or *any other Caesar*? Were not all these men Princes with a Capital P? I mean, if I were rating him based on how well he does as a propaganda writer for an imaginary dictatorship, I'd have said that he's done rather well with *all that*. But being a propaganda writer for an imaginary dictatorship is worthless, and being a real propaganda writer for a real dictorship is worse than worthless, is it not?But, oh, wait, I forgot, since it's written in a good style in some foreign original, and since its ideas would have helped the Florentine elite out-flank the Papacy and the French several eternities ago, we must surely make ourselves forget what fair flowers are trampled down into the earth by this kind of thinking. Although I'll say that I personally found it to be basically boring (especially the random-Renaissance history-of-backstabbing stuff that I found difficult to care about) and sometimes stupid (the citizens of a conquered republic will want to get their lost freedom back, but if you go to live in the same city as them, your semi-divine presence will magically make them lose their desire for freedom), stupid even from his own point of view. (If you do this, nothing good will happen for you, but if you only do this, nothing but good things will happen. It's like he's one of those guys trying to sell you a watch--like he's going to open up his coat and it'll be full of watches, and he'll say, 'Wanna buy a watch? A watch like one of these will make you powerful and strong, so that nothing bad will happen to you.' He's like a tinker or a knacker who thinks he's the Grand Doge of Doge-land.) It's also so abstract that it can't be anything other than theory (somehow I think it would have to be different to be social or political science), and yet it is so mucked up in details and precedents and examples that it's hardly good as theory, either. Not to mention the fact that he never even explains what you'd want a prince for, or what good a prince is meant to aim at. If "every art...seems to aim at some good" and all arts have some purpose (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, first sentence) what is the purpose of the prince's art, and what good does he aim at? Machiavelli almost doesn't have an answer, and he doesn't even bother to address the question, except for the nationalist agitprop bit at the end, which I hope no-one mistakes for philosophy. Also, the odd forays into military matters are to me little more than tokens that this man did not really know what sort of book he wanted to write, or what purpose he was trying to accomplish. A dilettante, if I may use the Italian word. Although I suppose that even a dilettante, armed with delusions of gradeur and with guns in his hands, might be dangerous and harmful enough, but I certainly do not see what good might ever have come from this. Furthermore, some people seem to think that Machiavelli was good to be amoral (read that phrase again) because he 'liberated' politics from religion and morality and so on. My only reply is that no-one can compel you to read Aristotle's 'Nicomachean Ethics' before you read his 'Politics', or force you to read Epictetus before trying to get through John Locke--and yet anyone who seriously thinks that politics has no connection at all, whatsoever, with ethics, needs their head examined for holes, or dents. Or, better yet, such people should be encouraged to read a few books about the Nazis or something. 'Be generous wit
The definitive classic in binary political logic. But then as someone once said, there are 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don't.
Cold, calculating, and objectively cruel. You can't help but to think about today's political leaders.
The Prince is a staple in politics and political reading. While Machiavelli and his principals aren't the best, they're still in use today, showing the timelessness of The Prince.
Clothed in the indignation of a dearth of ethics, Machiavelli's great masterpiece was met with contempt by his contemporaries, horrified by the preponderances of this political idealist. Coining the idea that the "ends may justify the means," Machiavelli proposes that rulers should not be restrained by the bounds civilians posess hindering their actions. According to Machiavelli, rulers have the wherewithal to determine the best course of action for their constituents. Correspondingly the ruler should seek to be both loved and feared by their populous but always in the presence of clear thought and cool logic endowed with the desire to benefit their people through the best course of action available. Ultimately, the Prince should have the final say on matters choosing based on his personal digression, not the often muddled yearns of the populous.Political idealists of today's era recognize the sacrifices necessary to provide for the people. They recognize, as Machiavelli did in the dawn of the 16th Century, that executives cannot afford to be restricted by blind morality, compromising the well-being of their people. However many people claim that Machiavelli's work is too harsh, too obdurate, leaving supposedly infallible executives in control of a suppressed and subservient people. In response, Machiavelli does not openly welcome immorality. Far from it. Machiavelli offers the ability to rulers to choose an immoral action in the exhaustion of every other alternative. Only then do the ends justify the means.The Prince's only flaw is that it was written by Machiavelli as a plea for a position in the Medici regime of 16th Century Florence. The Prince was a means to an end for Machiavelli written with an air of obsequiousness commending the glories of Medici in the hopes of a return to politics. Machiavelli writes a well-thought out political treatise documenting escapes out of the political conundrums that befuddle even the most able and adroit rulers. Machiavelli's message resounds with increasing clarity as the problems facing modern executives grow increasingly cryptic.
Six out of ten.
Typically described as a guidebook for politicians, it's insight into people and groups does make some of the lessons quite applicable to everyday life, for example dealing with workmates or family or to help understand exactly what the PM's latest communication was meant to achieve. Honestly, however, the chapters on keeping mercenaries loyal is of little benefit to anyone.
Other people have reviewed The Prince's content. I gave this book four stars; I would have given it five if the translation were better. This edition (Dover Thrift) is certainly economical, but the sentences are long, convoluted, and reverse subject and object. It took me a while to get through even though it runs only 71 pages. I had to sit there and wrestle with the verbiage as I went.Otherwise, thought-provoking and a handbook of international relations.
Some things never change, and so it is with The Prince by Machiavelli. Completely deplete of any moral concerns, this short book is the complete "how-to" manual in governing the masses through manipulation, cruelty and random acts of beneficence. A must read for anyone interested in the realms of politics. Scary stuff.
My job requires me to function in a highly politicized work environment. I work with a large group of department heads, providing counsel on issues pertaining to the fine art of people management. Some of them are philosopher kings and others are callous despots. I have found that rereading THE PRINCE every few years reminds me of the basics. Whether the princes are in the courts of the Italian peninsula during the Renaissance or in the offices of a large corporation at the dawn of the 21st century, people with authority act in similar ways. There is much to be learned from this amazing little book.
Princely Rule for Dummies, this scientific analysis of a social system is actually well-suited as a leadership guide to anyone wishing to gain and hang onto an important position of power in many areas of life, including politics and business. In this book, Machiavelli discusses the themes of power, human nature, warcraft, free will, virtue and more. It was originally written specifically for Lorenzo de Medici with his future as well as the government of 16th century Italy in mind, and does not necessarily include an all-encompassing view of Machiavelli's political thinking. In fact, based on his other works, I think we can conclude that the author preferred a republic form of government. Even within The Prince, Machiavelli tells us the purpose of politics is to promote a common good. A prince must strive to be virtuous, but virtue (or admired trait) should never take precedence over the state. For example, while generosity may be admired by others, it can be detrimental to the future of the state and should therefore be avoided.I wasn't sure how to rate this book as I'm not a political science major nor out to get ahead in business. It was thought-provoking and actually quite easy to read, considering the time of its authorship as well as the subject matter. The author provides many examples of great and not-so-great leaders and their power struggles, as well, so I'd definitely recommend it for anyone studying politics or history.
I highlighted this book like crazy. It's not necessarily that I agree with what he says in practice, but rather that the principles which he enumerates can be redefined and reused in a modern context, replacing "the prince" with "the people." I could write a long, lengthy treatise on the matter. I will say though that move of it is taken up in examples which are rather tedious in the process of reading itself.
Machiavelli's beautiful little treatise was an act of patriotism to the despairing Italy, not to mention a sort of present for the Medici in Machiavelli's hopes for job opportunity. I find it is a most interesting and enjoyable, if not down right delightful read. I'm 100% positive America's Left and Right (or, more precisely the power that creates the illusion of a Left and Right) practice Machiavellian tactics day in and day out. This manual has a notoriously famous list of readers that you could probably guess. I hope the rebellion that is being born will not need to use Machiavelli's political tactics, but to overcome the current powers, it may well be a necessary evil. Enjoy, be sure that your leaders did and that they have quite handsomely prospered from Niccolo!
Interesting book - always portrayed as a bloody, gory story about an individual, it is in fact more of a textbook for the aspiring prince (written as a missive to the Medicis who had been returned to power in Florence, by Machiavelli, who was hoping to regain a position himself in their court). It refers rather bluntly to certain acts which would be required of anyone in such a position - such as elimination of threats and their families - but not in any graphic manner. It is a dispassionate treatment, but fascinating for all that.