Machiavelli Research Essay

Submitted By AnantNaik1
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The book “The Prince” by Niccoló Machiavelli is a book about how an ideal prince should run his state. This book was originally written for Lorenzo the Great de Medici. It became a cornerstone of modern political theory. The book was published in 1532, after Machiavelli died. This book instantly provoked controversy that is still continuing today. Machiavelli defined human nature as inherently selfish, and claimed that social conflict was the best way to determine the most able of the leaders. The leaders ability to maneuver through possible hardship would determine how effectively the government under him would function. These ideals lead us to analyze Machiavelli’s idea of the “Ends justify the means” thought, and also how he thought leaders are to effectively run the government. It becomes important to place the text in historical context, and to discuss some of the controversy created by the book in the seminar.

Machiavelli believed in the idea that the end results of an act justified the means that were taken to reach the end goal. He believed that an act, no matter if it was immoral, was always justified as long as it had good consequences at the end. This justified actions that went against general opinion. Machiavelli gives the example of Cesare Borgia for this idea. Cesare Borgia justified the violent and sudden overtaking of the entire Italian peninsula because it ended up with a more unified Italy. This unified Italy now could better defend against foreign threats that they couldn’t really address due to the ineffectiveness of the balance of power in dealing with foreign threats. Additionally, Machiavelli supports this “ends justify the means” concept with presenting the idea that sometimes a prince needs to “break his words” to do what is right (49). Sometimes, a prince might need to shift what his promises are to do what is in the best interest of the people. Many would agree that breaking your promises is immoral; however, Machiavelli argues that it is justified if fulfilling that promise would actually cause more harm in a given situation. Additionally, Machiavelli talked about the ways a prince ought to be to effectively run the state.

The book also outlines a list of characteristics a Prince must have to be an effective ruler. He claims that the Prince doesn’t have to have moral qualities, but “he must surely seem to have them” (63). This means that the Prince simply must give the false impression to be virtuous and just; however, he doesn’t have to actually have these qualities. Machiavelli justifies that because the king may need to break the appeared moral code in his personal decisions, but doesn’t have to reveal that to the public. Also, Machiavelli says that the prince should be a “miser, but not greedy” (102). This means that the Prince should be very careful about spending his own resources. This is important because over time, the Prince will appear to be very generous. Misers try to protect their own self-wealth. Thus, misers would be more likely to help against the defense of the people, as they have an interest at stake as well. This appearance of generosity only leads to the people against him “being contemptible and hateful” (68). Finally, Machiavelli asserts that a Prince ought to be feared rather than loved. This is because there is “greater security in being hated than loved” (60). This is important because fear ensures that his constituents and civilians will listen to him. This is critical in understanding Machiavelli’s entire work, as he explains only a prince with these characteristics can be an effective leader for his country.

Another important process that we must undergo is putting this text into historical context. During the time of Machiavelli, Italy was very divided. Because of the balance of power diplomacy, no one centralized power could take over the entirety of Italy. However, countries like England, France and Spain were uniting under strong leadership. Thus, it…