Machiavelli’s The Prince The Prince, written in 1513 by Niccolo Machiavelli is regarded as one of the most crucial yet controversial works in the field of political science. It holds Machiavelli’s observations and reflections on Italian political history. It was written in response to the decay of the Italian states system. This book was designed specifically to captivate and transform its readers to analyze and adopt Machiavelli’s perspective as it was initially written and dedicated to Lorenzo De Medici, the ruler of Florence. Although this book was written in the 15th century, the ideas are very much applicable in today’s societies.
Machiavelli’s goals and views as perceived by the readers of this book seem to be in contrast with the humanist beliefs and teachings of his time. As in his book he promotes a secular society and felt morality should be set aside as it obstructed power. He reflects that a prince should not consider whether his acts are moral or immoral while he acts in the favor of the state. To achieve that, states goals must be the primary focus for a prince. If a prince acts immorally to achieve the states’ goals, then it does not reflect his personal standards or beliefs, as it is a role that he plays for the state.
The effect of fortune on government and the course of humanity is an important theme in the book. As Machiavelli believed that fortune played a major part in at least half of men’s actions. The force of fortune was so strong that it was mentally in the back of every men’s mind, but their were steps that could be taken to lower the effect. Furthermore, Machiavelli holds a very low opinion of most people and thinks they have been selfish towards the state. He concludes from his observations that men are ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers. He points out that they will accompany you when you are privileged and abandon or turn against you at the time of danger.
A prince therefore must be cautious while interacting with the people but should have a favorable standing amongst them. The Prince was written and completed by Machiavelli in response to Italy’s persistent political problems and the emergence of a new rule in Florence. Therefore with these two situations at hand, Machiavelli carefully devised The Prince and primarily focused on the responsibilities, aims and objectives that a new prince should concentrate upon. To explain his arguments, Machiavelli draws out examples from various historical episodes and his political experience. He stresses in his book that political leaders should seek solutions from the past in order to cure current problems. His opinion revolved around that fact that instead of evolution and progress there was repetition as a recurring cycle of events shaped history. This can be seen reflected in most of Machiavelli’s arguments in The Prince, which weakens his arguments to an extent.
He further concludes that men throughout history have been selfish and cheats. They are not worthy of any lenience and therefore should be treated with the same measures as in the past. The Prince, has been criticized both in a positively and negatively. Some have praised Machiavelli for his realism and irony in a subtle manner. On the other hand he is acclaimed for having his work seen as supporting a republican form of government by exposing the faults of princedoms, and praise his ability to separate political from moral issues. Machiavelli can also be seen as nave, promoting fraud, force and immorality in politics, using beneficial ends to justify evil means, and betraying republican ideals.
There is also a departure from classical models to a more humanist approach, when Machiavelli urges rulers to take on the characteristics of animals by using force when the situation requires. Although Machiavelli refers to classical accounts of rulers being trained by centaurs, his suggestion that rulers be less than fully human critical challenges the humanist tradition which would never have humans behave as beasts. The Prince, is often referred to as a ‘book inspired by the devil.’ This piece of literature is very interesting not only for Political Science students but also for everyone part of a society. It gives an excellent insight to understanding the qualities of human kind. In the 500 years since this book has been written it has been a major source of contention and debate. In addition this book is highly recommended and enjoyable to read.