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The Prince  
Machiavelli Principe Cover Page.jpg
The Prince Title Page
Author Niccolò Machiavelli
Original title Il Principe
Country Florence
Language Italian
Subject(s) Political Science
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Antonio Blado d'Asola.
Publication date 1532
Preceded by Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio
Followed by Andria

The Prince (Italian: Il Principe) is a political treatise by the Italian public servant and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. Originally called De Principatibus (About Principalities), it was originally written in 1513, but not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. The Prince was one of the first works of modern philosophy, in which pragmatic ends, as opposed to teleological concepts, are the purpose. The treatise is not representative of the work published during his lifetime, but it is the most remembered, and the work responsible for bringing "Machiavellian" into wide usage as a pejorative term.

Contents

Analysis

The views expounded by Machiavelli in The Prince may seem extreme even for the time period in which they were written. However, his whole life was spent in Florence at a time of continuous political conflict. Accordingly, Machiavelli emphasizes the need for stability in a prince’s principality; at stake is its preservation.

The theories expressed in The Prince describe methods that an aspiring prince can use to acquire the throne, or an existing prince can use to maintain his reign. According to Machiavelli, the greatest moral good is a virtuous and stable state, and actions to protect the country are therefore justified even if they are cruel.[citation needed] Machiavelli strongly suggests, however, that the prince must not be hated. He states, "...a wise prince should establish himself on that which is his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavor to avoid hatred, as is noted."[1]

The opening discourse of The Prince defines effective methods of governing in several types of principalities (for example, newly acquired vs. hereditary). Machiavelli explains to the reader, the "Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici",[2] member of the Florentine Medici family, the best ways to acquire, maintain, and protect a state. The methods described therein have the general theme of acquiring necessary ends by any means.[citation needed]

Summary

Introduction

The Prince examines the acquisition, perpetuation, and use of political power in the western world. Machiavelli wrote The Prince to prove his proficiency in the art of the state, offering advice on how a prince might gain and keep power.

Machiavelli justified rule by force rather than by law. Accordingly, The Prince seems to justify a number of actions done solely to perpetuate power. It is a classic study of power—its acquisition, expansion, and effective use.

Defense and military

Having discussed the various types of principalities, Machiavelli turns to the ways a state can attack other territories or defend itself. The two most essential foundations for any state, whether old or new, are sound laws and strong military forces. A self-sufficient prince is one who can meet any enemy on the battlefield. However, a prince that relies solely on fortifications or on the help of others and stands on the defensive is not self-sufficient. If he cannot raise a formidable army, but must rely on defense, he must fortify his city. A well-fortified city is unlikely to be attacked, and if it is, most armies cannot endure an extended siege. However, during a siege a virtuous prince will keep the morale of his subjects high while removing all dissenters. Thus, as long as the city is properly defended and has enough supplies, a wise prince can withstand any siege.

Machiavelli stands strongly against the use of mercenaries. He believes them useless to a ruler because they are undisciplined, cowardly, and without any loyalty, being motivated only by money. Machiavelli attributes the Italian city states’ weakness to their reliance on mercenary armies.

Machiavelli also warns against using auxiliary forces, troops borrowed from an ally, because if they win, the employer is under their favor and if they lose, he is ruined. Auxiliary forces are more dangerous than mercenary forces because they are united and controlled by capable leaders who may turn against the employer.

The main concern for a prince should be war, or the preparation thereof. Through war a hereditary prince maintains his power or a private citizen rises to power. Machiavelli advises that a prince must frequently hunt in order to keep his body fit and learn the landscape surrounding his kingdom. Through this, he can best learn how to protect his territory and advance upon others similar. For intellectual strength, he is advised to study great military men so he may imitate their successes and avoid their mistakes. A prince who is diligent in times of peace will be ready in times of adversity. Machiavelli writes, “thus, when fortune turns against him he will be prepared to resist it.”

Self-reliance

When a prince comes to power through luck or the blessings of powerful figures within the regime, he has an easy time gaining power but a hard time keeping it thereafter, because his power is dependent on his benefactors' goodwill - a fickle thing at best. He does not command the loyalty of the armies and officials that maintain his authority, and these can be withdrawn from him at a whim. Having risen the easy way, it is not even certain such a prince has the skill and strength to stand on his own feet.

Conversely, a prince who rises by overthrowing the existing order has a hard time rising but rules with ease afterwards.

Part of the reason why the overthrowing the old order is difficult is that people are generally resistant to change and reform. Those who benefited under the old regime will resist him fervently, whilst those who stand to benefit from his new order will help him only half-heartedly. This is mainly because the reformers lack legitimacy, and because it is hard for people to believe in a proposed system that they haven't experienced for themselves. To counter this, a prince must have the means to force his supporters to keep supporting him even when they start having second thoughts. Only armed prophets succeed in bringing lasting change.

Reputation of a prince

Concerning the behavior of a prince toward his subjects, Machiavelli writes: "Men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good." Since there are many possible qualities that a prince can be said to possess, he must not be overly concerned about having all the good ones. Also, a prince may be perceived to be merciful, faithful, humane, frank, and religious, but he must only seem to have these qualities. A prince cannot truly have these qualities because at times it is necessary to act against them. Although a bad reputation should be avoided, this is not crucial in maintaining power. The only ethic that matters is one that is beneficial to the prince in dealing with the concerns of his state.

Generosity vs. parsimony

If a prince is overly generous to his subjects, Machiavelli asserts he will lose appreciation and will only cause greed for more. Additionally, being overly generous is not economical, because eventually all resources will be exhausted. This results in higher taxes and will bring grief upon the prince. Then, if he decides to discontinue or limit his generosity, he will be labeled as a miser. Thus, Machiavelli summarizes that guarding against the people’s hatred is more important than building up a reputation for generosity. A wise prince should be willing to be more reputed a miser than be hated for trying to be too generous.

Cruelty vs. mercy

In answering the question of whether it is better to be loved than feared, Machiavelli writes, “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.” As Machiavelli asserts, commitments made in peace are not always kept in adversity; however, commitments made in fear are kept out of fear. Yet, a prince must ensure that he is not feared to the point of hatred, which is very possible. Above all, Machiavelli argues, do not interfere with the property of the subjects, their women, or the life of somebody without proper justification. Regarding the troops of the prince, fear is absolutely necessary to keep a large garrison united and a prince should not mind the thought of cruelty in that regard. For a prince who leads his own army, it is imperative for him to observe cruelty because that is the only way he can command his soldiers' absolute respect. Machiavelli compares two great military leaders: Hannibal and Scipio Africanus. Although Hannibal's army consisted of men of various races, they were never rebellious because they feared their leader. Scipio's men, on the other hand, were known for their mutiny and dissension.

In What Way Princes Should Keep Their Word

Machiavelli notes that a Prince is praised for keeping his word. However, he also notes that a Prince is also praised for the illusion of being reliable in keeping his word. A Prince, therefore, should only keep his word when it suits his purposes, but do his utmost to maintain the illusion that he does keep his word and that he is reliable in that regard. Therefore, a Prince should not break his word unnecessarily.

Avoiding contempt and hatred

Machiavelli observes that most men are content as long as they are not deprived of their property and women. A prince should command respect through his conduct, because a prince that is highly respected by his people is unlikely to face internal struggles. Additionally, a prince who does not raise the contempt of the nobles and keeps the people satisfied, Machiavelli assures, should have no fear of conspirators.

Gaining honors

A prince truly earns honor by completing great feats. King Ferdinand of Spain is cited by Machiavelli as an example of a monarch who gained esteem by showing his ability through great feats and who, in the name of religion, conquered many territories and kept his subjects occupied so that they had no chance to rebel. Regarding two warring states, Machiavelli asserts it is always wiser to choose a side, rather than to be neutral. Machiavelli then provides the following reasons why:

  • If your allies win, you benefit whether or not you have more power than they have.
  • If you are more powerful, then your allies are under your command; if your allies are stronger, they will always feel a certain obligation to you for your help.
  • If your side loses, you still have an ally in the loser.

Machiavelli also notes that it is wise for a prince not to ally with a stronger force unless compelled to do so. In conclusion, the most important virtue is having the wisdom to discern what ventures will come with the most reward and then pursuing it courageously.

Nobles and staff

The selection of quality servants is reflected directly upon the prince’s intelligence, so if they are loyal, the prince is considered wise; however, when they are otherwise, the prince is open to adverse criticism. Machiavelli asserts that there are three types of intelligence:

  • The kind that understands things for itself—which is great to have.
  • The kind that understands what others can understand—which is good to have.
  • The kind that does not understand for itself, nor through others—which is useless to have.

If the prince does not have the first type of intelligence, he should at least have the second type. For, as Machiavelli states, “A prince must have the discernment to recognize the good or bad in what another says or does even though he has no acumen himself".

Avoiding flatterers

A prudent prince should have a select group of wise counselors to advise him truthfully on matters all the time. All their opinions should be taken into account. Ultimately, the decision should be made by the counselors and carried out absolutely. If a prince is given to changing his mind, his reputation will suffer. A prince must have the wisdom to recognize good advice from bad. Machiavelli gives a negative example in Emperor Maximilian I; Maximilian, who was secretive, never consulted others, but once he ordered his plans and met dissent, he immediately changed them.

Fortune

Machiavelli argues that fortune is only the judge of half of our actions and that we have control over the other half. He expresses a high opinion of Cesare Borgia, but says he lost power because of unexpected illness. Machiavelli compares fortune to a torrential river that cannot be easily controlled during flooding season. In periods of calm, however, people can erect dams and levees in order to minimize its impact. Fortune, Machiavelli argues, seems to strike at the places where no resistance is offered, as is the case in Italy. Additionally, a prince’s rule must be suited and adjusted for the times.

In a more controversial metaphor, Machiavelli writes that "it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because fortune is a woman; and it is necessary, if one wants to hold her down, to beat her and strike her down."[3] Some translations use the word "rape," although it is disputed. However, the attitude encapsulates Machiavelli's view of power and his understanding of the lust which follows it. A prince should imitate the actions of great men before him but only to a certain extent, adjusting certain aspects of his predecessors' ideas.

Machiavelli also holds that the greatest princes in history tend to be ones who rise to power through their own effort and cunning rather than depending on luck. The only thing they owe to luck is the initial opportunity that allowed them to begin their rise.

Influence on politics

Machiavelli's ideals on ruling a country have had a profound impact on political leaders throughout the modern west. Machiavelli is featured as a character in the prologue of Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta.

Frederick the Great of Prussia criticised Machiavelli's conclusions in his "Anti-Machiavel", published in 1740.

At different stages in his life, Napoleon I of France wrote extensive comments to The Prince. After his defeat in Waterloo, these comments were found in the emperor's coach and taken by Prussian military.[4]

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini wrote a discourse on The Prince.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was said to be deeply influenced by The Prince, and kept a copy of it on his nightstand.[citation needed]

Interpretation of The Prince as political satire

There is "a widely held ... view of The Prince, namely, that the book is, first and foremost, a satire, so that many of the things we find in it which are morally absurd, specious, and contradictory, are there quite deliberately in order to ridicule ... the very notion of tyrannical rule ... (hence, the satire has a firm moral purpose -- to expose tyranny and promote republican government)."[5] According to Hans Baron (1961, p. 299)[6], Machiavelli's motive in writing The Prince was "to entice Lorenzo de Medici to commit the suggested crimes so as to reap the Florentines' harsh judgement sooner." "Mary Deitz (1986)[7] writes that Machiavelli's agenda was ... offering carefully crafted advice (such as arming the people) designed to undo the ruler if taken seriously and followed."

In The Social Contract, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said: "Machiavelli was a proper man and a good citizen; but, being attached to the court of the Medici, he could not help veiling his love of liberty in the midst of his country's oppression. The choice of his detestable hero, Caesar Borgia, clearly enough shows his hidden aim; and the contradiction between the teaching of the Prince and that of the Discourses on Livy and the History of Florence shows that this profound political thinker has so far been studied only by superficial or corrupt readers. The Court of Rome sternly prohibited his book. I can well believe it; for it is that Court it most clearly portrays."[8]

Diderot also thought it was a satire. In fact it appears to have been the mainstream view (perhaps adopted from Spinoza) of the Enlightenment philosophes.

Further reading

  • Machiavelli, Niccolò (2004). The Prince. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-140449-15-0. 

See also

Other works by Machiavelli

Notes

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The modern reputation of Niccolo Machiavelli rests mainly on his political treatise Il Principe (The Prince), written around 1513, but not published until 1532, five years after his death.

Sourced

  • And so it is with State affairs. For the distempers of a State being discovered while yet inchoate, which can only be done by a sagacious ruler, may easily be dealt with; but when, from not being observed, they are suffered to grow until they are obvious to every one, there is no longer any remedy.
    • Chapter III: Of Mixed Princedoms
  • […]you ought never to suffer your designs to be crossed in order to avoid war, since war is not so to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage.
    • Chapter III: Of Mixed Princedoms
  • For, besides what has been said, it should be borne in mind that the temper of the multitude is fickle, and that while it is easy to persuade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion. Wherefore, matters should be so ordered that when men no longer believe of their own accord, they may be compelled to believe by force.
    • Chapter VI: Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His Own Arms and by Merit
  • And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of adversaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved by the event.
    • Chapter VI: Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His Own Arms and by Merit
  • Those cruelties we may say are well employed, if it be permitted to speak well of things evil, which are done once for all under the necessity of self-preservation, and are not afterwards persisted in, but so far as possible modified to the advantage of the governed. Ill-employed cruelties, on the other hand, are those which from small beginnings increase rather than diminish with time. They who follow the first of these methods, may, by the grace of God and man, find, as did Agathocles, that their condition is not desperate; but by no possibility can the others maintain themselves.
    • Chapter VIII: Of Those Who By Their Crimes Come to Be Princes
  • But since it is my object to write what shall be useful to whosoever understands it, it seems to me better to follow the real truth of things than an imaginary view of them. For many Republics and Princedoms have been imagined that were never seen or known to exist in reality. And the manner in which we live, and that in which we ought to live, are things so wide asunder, that he who quits the one to betake himself to the other is more likely to destroy than to save himself; since any one who would act up to a perfect standard of goodness in everything, must be ruined among so many who are not good.
    • Chapter XV: Of the Qualities In Respect of Which Men, and Most of all Princes, Are Praised or Blamed
  • And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
    • Chapter XVII: Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared
  • A Prince, therefore, if he is enabled thereby to forbear from plundering his subjects, to defend himself, to escape poverty and contempt, and the necessity of becoming rapacious, ought to care little though he incur the reproach of miserliness, for this is one of those vices which enable him to reign.
    • Chapter XVII: Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared
  • A controversy has arisen about this: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or vise versa. My view is that it is deserable to be both loved and feared; but it is difficult to achieve both and, if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer to be feared than loved.
    • Chapter XVI: Of Liberality and Miserliness
  • For of men it may generally be affirmed, that they are thankless, fickle, false studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lives, and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against you.
    • Chapter XVII: Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared
  • Be it known, then, that there are two ways of contending, one in accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second.
    • Chapter XVIII: How Princes Should Keep Faith
  • And here it is to be noted that hatred is incurred as well on account of good actions as of bad; or which reason, as I have already said, a Prince who would maintain his authority is often compelled to be other than good. For when the class, be it the people, the soldiers, or the nobles, on whom you judge it necessary to rely for your support, is corrupt, you must needs adapt yourself to its humours, and satisfy these, in which case virtuous conduct will only prejudice you.
    • Chapter XIX: That a Prince Should Seek to Escape Contempt and Hatred
  • For a Prince is exposed to two dangers, from within in respect of his subjects, from without in respect of foreign powers. Against the latter he will defend himself with good arms and good allies, and if he have good arms he will always have good allies;
    • Chapter XIX: That a Prince Should Seek to Escape Contempt and Hatred
  • And it will always happen that he who is not your friend will invite you to neutrality, while he who is your friend will call on you to declare yourself openly in arms. Irresolute Princes, to escape immediate danger, commonly follow the neutral path, in most instances to their destruction.
    • Chapter XXI: How a Prince Should Bear Himself So As to Acquire Reputation

Attributed

  • And that prince who bases his power entirely on...words, finding himself completely without other preparations, comes to ruin.

External links

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The Prince
disambiguation
This is a disambiguation page that lists different versions of the same work.

Il Principe or The Prince is a political treatise by the Florentine philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.


Versions of The Prince include:


Wikibooks

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Haley on the Prince

The Prince is quite possibly one of the greatest political commentaries of all-time. Nicollo Machiavelli

Table of Contents



Introduction

  1. Principalities

Simple English

The Prince is a book written by Niccolò Machiavelli, who lived in the city of Florence in the country of Italy. The book was published in 1532.

The book talks about politics and government. During his life, Machiavelli saw many changes in the government of Florence. He thought a lot about what a king or prince should do to make a strong government. In the book, he said the ruler had to get a lot of power.

One of the things he said that made people worried, was that ethics and politics are different. A person might have to do things that are wrong to get power, but with power he could then do good things. This thought made people upset.

But other things he said sounded very wise. So people read the book and talk about it, to see what things are true and false.

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