The Prince

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Literature ・Chicago ・1 Sources

The Prince. Niccolo Machiavelli. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979, 102).
In his work The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli develops his point of view on political statecraft. According to the information presented in the book, every leader has to take care about his state by all means. The leader himself has to be able to act both virtuously and dishonestly if the circumstances require so. Machiavelli emphasizes the importance of using violent methods by the ruler, as it is inevitable to make such decisions during the governance. Overall, the main idea of the book praises successful leadership gained by any methods, even if they require violence, cunningness, and dishonesty. The author’s central argument is success in statecraft in spite of everything, including the conquest of the other states.
Niccolo Machiavelli considered effective leadership of the state as the guarantee of its prosperity. However, according to his views, the leader has to possess certain qualities to meet the standards of successful ruler. Comparing new states and the old ones, the author is making a point how to achieve the goals of effective leadership. To prove his point, the author goes deeper into psychology describing possible pitfalls the ruler has to go through gaining leadership. He states that people gladly change their masters, thinking to better themselves; and this belief causes them to take arms against their ruler.[1] One of the principles of effective statecraft Machiavelli calls support of the inhabitants, as the army cannot guarantee absolute power for the ruler. One may find it extremely controversial that the author advises to use all methods of power, but to enlist the support of the inhabitants. However, Machiavelli emphasizes that the implementation of violence and dishonest methods can be used in the circumstances of extreme necessity when the conditions require to use them to save the ruler’s position.

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The author concentrates his attention on the conquest of the other lands, as he considers increasing of one’s territories as the main condition to become a powerful ruler. At the same time, the book warns future leaders about possible pitfalls on their way to power. Machiavelli states that foreign lands with different languages and customs can be more difficult to rule, due to cultural differences.[2] Paying much attention of his work on the principles of conquest and the methods of holding those lands, the author reveals his celebration of a power concentrated in one’s arms. According to his views, one effective ruler who acts violently and dishonestly is better than a virtuous one, though less effective. It is crucial to analyze this point of view deeper, as taking into consideration to the time period when the book was written, the information was rather actual. Machiavelli judges the leader as an ordinary man, with positive and negative sides, who has to be able to take difficult decisions during the hard times. His view of the ruler as a strong conqueror and imperious overlord is dictated by his perception of a person living in those days. Meanwhile, Machiavelli considers that true leader has to be noble to rule the state. He gives the example of Alexander the Great whom he considers as the strongest ruler ever existed. He claims that the lands conquered by him did not separate due to his personality, his ability to make difficult decisions and use all methods to multiply his lands.[3]

Nevertheless, Machiavelli notices the fact of different attitude toward the state rulers due to their personal qualities. According to the author, the main reason for this is the leader’s conduct and the patters of behavior. However, Machiavelli considers the reputation as less important feature than the effectiveness of statecraft. The author’s views towards this matter are rather controversial. He states that the ruler will discover that something which appears to be a virtue, if pursued, will end in his destruction; while some other thing which seems to be a vice, if pursued, will result in his safety and his well-being.[4] Overall, the main advice for the leader the author calls thinking out of the box and not following the usual concepts of virtuosity and vices accepted by the other people. According to his point of view, inhabitants and rulers are different kinds of people where the leaders ought to rule, and the others must obey.

Analyzing the main ideas of The Prince and information aiming to prove them, one has to admit that Machiavelli casts multiple arguments to prove his thinking. Taking into account the time of his activity, the information presented in the book has to be considered justified. The author gives several examples of effective rulers, both popular and hated among their people. He claims that success of the leader origins in nobility, personal qualities, and ability to escape stereotypes that the ruler has to be virtuous to govern his lands effectively. Referring to the past, Machiavelli proves his points effectively, even if his ideas do not coincide with the general opinion of the leader’s image. While analyzing the facts and the history, one can say that Machiavelli’s position fits the period of time when he was working. He was blamed and criticized for such ideas, though one has to admit the clarity and precision of Machiavelli’s thought and ideas. His point of views is rather controversial with respect to the present days, as he is praising totalitarianism. However, there are examples of effective leaders who used both virtuosity and violence. At this point it is inevitable to understand that in his book Machiavelli gives advices to the rulers and his work is dedicated exceptionally for those who have the aim to develop his statecraft. During the narrative, the author has never taken into account the interests of inhabitants in the way one understands them today. The Prince appeals only to the rulers taking into account the time period and a place.

Bibliography

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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