am 6. Juni 2008
"The Prince" is a political essay, written by Machiavelli, in which he lays down his views on how a prince should gain power and keep it at all costs. His views are quite shocking at times but you have to bear in mind the unstable and violent circumstances in which he was writing it - the Italy he was living in is not the Italy we know today. So to survive in that age, you had to watch your back at all times, recognise your enemies, court your friends and build up your armies.
Machiavelli does not attempt to hide his contempt for mercenaries whom he describes as lazy, unreliable and without morals. He also believes that you should gain the love and respect of the people but at the same time you should also be feared by them. But if you have to choose between love and fear, fear is the better of the two.
He also espouses strong laws and strong military forces, stating that in order to stay in power, you must have the ability to meet your enemy on the battlefield and defeat them. Failing that, you must be able to fortify your city and hold it against a siege.
Another major point that he makes is that it is better to gain power from ordinary people rather than be taken to power from nobles. Ordinary people will then be content if you provide them with peace, stability and prosperity. Nobles on the other hand will have shifting allegiences, powerful interests and other people they will want to see at the top.
"The Prince" is considered to be a handbook for politicians everywhere and a masterpiece for how to gain power and keep it. The name "Machiavelli" is practically a verb for something underhanded and sly which goes to show how famous the author has become.
am 29. Dezember 2004
Here are some BASIC, UTMOST IMPORTANT and UNIVERSAL REMARKS for those that start reading Niccolò Machiavelli, be it 'Il Principe' or his 'Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio', better known as 'The Discourses', giving a very original political comment on the the first ten books of Titus Livius.
* Machiavelli's ideas are NOT a close-fitting nor a rounded down system: who thinks elsehow will get into everlasting problems;
* The 'Secretarius Florentinus' is NOT a SYSTEMATIC philosopher in the scholastic sense of the word: he DOESN'T WORRY whether the question or idea he describes is IN CONCORDANCE with notions or opinions written down elsewhere. Therefore lots of statements can but difficultly be brought in accordance to the former AND can even bring CRITICISM INTO TROUBLE. This is of far lesser importance while these incongruities are merely touching the general points of departure of his work, instead of the distinct parts of his arguments. You can notice this through his LOGIC (as strong as iron!!) and an IRREFUTABLE CONSEQUENCE.
* Machiavelli stays A-MORAL in Il Principe, just as nature is: not judging about good and bad, not influenced by a religion or anything else!! I know people have problems with this last 'way of writing, thinking', BUT this is the most important factor that makes his work so IMMENSELY UNIVERSAL...
There are two central themes in this work: POLITICS and THE PROBLEMS THAT ARE CONNECTED WITH THE NOTION, THE CONCEPT 'POWER'.
Il Principe is a flaming and militant political piece of writing in which the author is not only rationally, but also emotionally 'present' with the full power of his personality.
Machiavelli's ideas are closely related to the general philosophical concept of the Renaissance. His vision too is antropocentric: the only right to exist man has, is present in man himself AND in the realisation of the self in this world.
Machiavelli is the founder of the political science(s): nobody before him had considered that politic is a single, separate science, free of any moral or religion.
In his system he isolates the technical bias (read: orientation) on what is politically useful from the moral and theological aspect of kindness and justice. He defines sharply THE PURPOSE that one wants to reach, to achieve and THEN, starting from the situation in which a (the) person stands, WEIGHS UP THE PROS AND CONS (on a rational-technical basis) OF THE MEANS THAT LEAD TO THE PURPOSE. WHICH MEANS THOSE ARE, DOES NOT MATTER (= AMORAL).
A means or reason that is MORALLY BAD, can be GOOD FOR POLITICS and VICE VERSA...!
Instead of talking about The Prince, it is only correct to use the word RULER: the crucial person in this work. For Machiavelli it was Cesare Borgia, for Nietzsche it was Napoleon, who REALLY 'slept with Il Principe' (he understood the book very well).
Too many readers are misled by words as "fortune, virtue": in Middle-Italian (very difficult, even for specialists) the author uses the words "FORTUNA" and "VIRTU": these two words (f.e.) have NOTHING OR LITTLE IN COMMON with fortune and virtue or virtus. There are about 23 POSSIBLE TRANSLATIONS for the word virtù...
To be a good ruler is not easy. In 26 short chapters the biggest philosopher of the 16th century, Machiavelli describes what the ruler can and/or should do ... to stay 'the ruler', not to lose the power he/she has, in absence of moral and religion: amoral. THAT IS DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN: JUST LOOK AROUND, LISTEN TO THE NEWS, THINK ABOUT GLOBAL PROBLEMS: EVERYWHERE YOU'LL MEET NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI, WAVING WITH HIS HAND TO YOU AND TRYING TO MAKE YOU AND US FREE FROM PREJUDICES, WHISPERING WHAT WE SHOULD DO OR NOT.
I have read several editions of Il Principe, but have only one that stays with me since decades now: I read and keep on reading about our ruler forever, so my book will stay with me too.
Last note: The saying "The end justifies the means" is NOT from Machiavelli: it already existed for a few centuries.
am 23. Juni 2000
Machiavelli is here at his best: terse, poignant, and profound. His insights into politics and his practical advice apply not just to autocratic princes of Italian city states, but to anyone who has authority and wants to maintain it, as well as to all those who want to gain authority. True, the book is an excellent attempt to describe politics, which is pervasive in the world, the way it is, and not the way that sanctimonious characters want it to be, but at the same time it raises one of the most difficult and even painful questions that a thinking being can confront: What does it mean to be moral in a world where cunning, cruelty, and underhanded methods of all kinds are sometimes the most effective, if not the only, way to achieve what you so passionately want? The Prince is a superb confrontation with reality, revealing, perhaps inadvertantly, the courage of human intellect.
am 2. Juli 2000
Machiavelli is the captain of Realism. He describes an era where you had to be practical to survive, especially if you are a Prince in Europe. He doesn't deserve the labels, that people gave him in recent centuries. His 'ends justify the means' motto isn't there as a way of living, as a philosofy. He just wanted the Princes of his time to be aware of dangers. I enjoyed this book tremendously because it was not what everyone told me before.
am 21. August 2015
I used to be a loser prince who nobody trembled in fear of. After reading this book, I conquered seven principalities and have held on to five of them. What a difference! Neighbouring states leave me alone, my nobility invites me to all their parties, even women look at me differently now. Absolute must-read for megalomaniacal despots at all career stages.
am 17. Mai 2014
to be honest i still havent finish the book yet but however so far its so good and informative , the whole thing teaches you how to gain your power and how to keep it and where and when see the traps and also how transit your limited power to absolutism
am 6. Juli 2000
Those who complain that this book is boring only show that they do not understand what they are reading; they should read it once they are older than forty years.
Originally this was his resume; presented to the new Prince of Florence, it succeeded in getting him reappointed to his old job. A few years later another revolt overthrew the Prince, and the Republic was re-established. But Machiavelli was out of a job again; the Republic refused him because of his collaboration with the Prince (who was put into power after the Holy League invaded the Republic). Machiavelli's death left his family penniless; his son published what had been a private letter to earn money. "The Prince" has been in continual publication for the last five centuries.
The reason is the brilliance of his writing; he wrote what many knew to be the truth. His book is descriptive, not prescriptive; it describes what rulers have done, and explains the results of their actions. Most people instinctively choose "the lesser evil"; Machiavelli was the first to clearly define this choice.
Machiavelli's books were well-read though out the 18th century. His claim that "Rome fell because it depended on auxiliaries" is true, but that is more effect than cause. His works were well- known to those who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
While addressed to a ruler, it should be read by many people to understand their rulers. "Watch what I do, not what I say" could have been said by one of Machiavelli's contemporaries.
The most notable thing about this book is Machiavelli's devotion to a republican form of government, contrary to his reputation as a tool of despotism. Or could that be a form of censorship? He did not claim "the end justifies the means" as a general rule, or a license for the powerful, altho some will read it that way.
Just as the feudal system survives today thru patronage and "politics" (really "personal relationships"), so too the examples cited by Machiavelli will always be relevant to "Western Civilization".
Machiavelli says that a citizen army is superior to mercenaries (professionals) or auxiliaries (foreign troops). Does the history of the last 250 years prove his claim? I wonder what he would say about our government's policy of using a professional army and disarming the citizens?
(This is based on the "Penguin Classics" version translated by George Ball.)
am 31. Mai 2000
Required reading at many Universities and Business Schools, The Prince is a classic. People the world over continue to show an enduring fascination for Machiavelli, some five hundred years after his death. Equally applicable to political science and business alike, this book is highly recommended for all readers.
Machiavelli's principles, conveyed through The Prince, are timeless; they address a side of human nature not often stated explicitly. By no means 'politically correct,' these principles touch the base emotions and desires of politics and everyday life. While greedy and evil as judged by many of today's cultural norms, the eloquent logic and sound arguments contained within The Prince are captivating. The fascination with Machiavelli is likely to endure for centuries to come.
In today's increasingly competitive and global economic climate, the CEOs of large corporations in many ways face the situation found in Italy in the 16th century. As the fervent wave of large mergers and acquisitions continues, Machiavelli's principles become that much more applicable. A "Prince" or the manager of a new company may also find the advice contained within The Prince very useful, however 'politically incorrect' this advice may be in today's world.
am 26. April 2000
The Prince is a philosophical, one of the first books written for the modern age. The book was written be Niccolo Machiavelli, a diplomat student and student of politics, who lived in Florence, Italy. The book was written about 1513, a period in which the eyes human society were on Italy. Political rivalries were very common during this time period including such powers as: The Pope, The Holy Roman Emperor, The rulers of France and Spain, and others who thirsted for power. For the situation in which these rulers existed, there was no better guide than a handbook on the clockwork of politics, and how to succeed in it. Machiavelli created such a book. The book's structure could not have been better. It started out defining and describing the governmental layouts, and many types of princedoms of which he would speak later in the book. He described how princedoms could be conquered, overthrown, and ruled. Throughout the book there are descriptions of ancient kingdoms, and modern ones. However, the significance of the time period is immense for we are 21st century and Machiavelli was 16th century. This puts a very interesting twist on the perspective of the book, not to mention the wisdom of the writer. As the book progresses he tells the theories of how one should rule a kingdom according to different situations that may occur during his rule. This is how and why the overall theme of the book becomes, "the end justifies the means." Machiavelli, has a cunning use of terms and words of the language, (Italian in the case of the original book). Some parts of the book seem to justify when it is right and when it is not to lie, act deceptive, or become a beast to maintain the stability of princedom, which is of prime importance. The book The Prince is not your average wonderful medieval time story with princesses, kings, and someone who saves the day. It is a true to life philosophy book introducing new theories that had never been considered before. It is a book full of tactics, and all the ways in which the ancient kingdoms were ruled. And whether it be called a historical book, philosophical, or a theoretical book, it has been talked of more than most other books, and that is for one reason alone, it is a great book.
am 29. März 2000
"The Prince" is one of the view books from college that I've actually kept. It is splendid reading on several levels. First, one appreciates Machiavelli as a problem solver. Italy is divided; what is the most practical and efficient means for a wise prince to consolidate his power and unify it? But one also appreciates Machiavelli as a person. A florentine intellectual banished to the countryside--it wouldn't be a bad life for some of us, but to him it must have been torture.
I was once asked whether Machiavelli was a cynic, a realist, or a patriot, and I believe the correct answer is all three. Much of Machiavelli's advice contains an under current of cynicism and ruthlessness, and this has undoubtedly come to be the dominant portion of his reputation. One of the terms for devil, "Old Nick" is derived from Machiavelli. When one speaks of destroying an enemy or performing a ruthless, sneaky act, that person is likely to be called "machiavellian". But Machiavelli's advice was as realistic as one could get in those times. This was an era when despots and mercenaries ruled by force and assasination. It was a time when popes fathered children and carved out little principalities for themselves. One was not going to remain in power, much less get ahead of one's enemies by being virtuous. It isn't that Machiavelli despised virtue so much as he realized how useless it was in the political context of the times. But in the end Machiavelli was also an idealist. He dreamed of a united Italy under a strong (and practical) prince. When he dedicated his treatise to Rodorigo Borgia, he did so in the hopes that he might be the man to perform such a task.
This book provides timeless practical advice for anyone who wishes to succeed in a hostile, divisive environment. It also illuminates the peculiar political circumstances of Renaissance Italy.