However, his whole life was spent in Florence at a time of continuous political conflict. 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. He states, " The methods described therein have the general theme of acquiring necessary ends by any means.
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Summary[ edit ] Each part of The Prince has been extensively commented on over centuries. The work has a recognizable structure, for the most part indicated by the author himself. The subject matter: New Princedoms Chapters 1 and 2 [ edit ] The Prince starts by describing the subject matter it will handle. In the first sentence, Machiavelli uses the word " state " Italian stato which could also mean " status " in order to cover, in neutral terms, "all forms of organization of supreme political power, whether republican or princely.
More importantly, and less traditionally, he distinguishes new princedoms from hereditary established princedoms. For such a prince, "unless extraordinary vices cause him to be hated, it is reasonable to expect that his subjects will be naturally well disposed towards him".
Normally, these types of works were addressed only to hereditary princes. He thinks Machiavelli may have been influenced by Tacitus as well as his own experience, but finds no clear predecessor to substantiate this claim. More generally, Machiavelli emphasizes that one should have regard not only for present problems but also for the future ones. Machiavelli notes in this chapter on the "natural and ordinary desire to acquire" and as such, those who act on this desire can be "praised or blamed" depending on the success of their acquisitions.
He then goes into detail about how the King of France failed in his conquest of Italy, even saying how he could have succeeded. Machiavelli views injuring enemies an necessity, stating that "if an injury is to be done to a man, it should be so severe that the prince is not in fear of revenge".
Machiavelli explained that in his time the Near East was again ruled by an empire, the Ottoman Empire , with similar characteristics to that of Darius — seen from the viewpoint of a potential conqueror. In some cases the old king of the conquered kingdom depended on his lords. These are easy to enter but difficult to hold. When the kingdom revolves around the king, with everyone else his servant, then it is difficult to enter but easy to hold.
The solution is to eliminate the old bloodline of the prince. Machiavelli used the Persian empire of Darius III , conquered by Alexander the Great , to illustrate this point and then noted that the Medici, if they think about it, will find this historical example similar to the "kingdom of the Turk" Ottoman Empire in their time — making this a potentially easier conquest to hold than France would be.
Conquered Free States, with their own laws and orders Chapter 5 [ edit ] Gilbert notes that this chapter is quite atypical of any previous books for princes. As he also notes, the chapter in any case makes it clear that holding such a state is highly difficult for a prince. Machiavelli gives three options: Ruin them, as Rome destroyed Carthage , and also as Machiavelli says the Romans eventually had to do in Greece.
Keep the state intact but install an oligarchy. The Bible describes the reasons behind his success differently. Princes who rise to power through their own skill and resources their "virtue" rather than luck tend to have a hard time rising to the top, but once they reach the top they are very secure in their position.
This is because they effectively crush their opponents and earn great respect from everyone else. Because they are strong and more self-sufficient, they have to make fewer compromises with their allies.
Machiavelli writes that reforming an existing order is one of the most dangerous and difficult things a prince can do. Part of the reason is that people are naturally resistant to change and reform.
Those who benefited from the old order will resist change very fiercely. By contrast, those who can benefit from the new order will be less fierce in their support, because the new order is unfamiliar and they are not certain it will live up to its promises. Inevitably, he will disappoint some of his followers. Therefore, a prince must have the means to force his supporters to keep supporting him even when they start having second thoughts, otherwise he will lose his power. Only armed prophets, like Moses, succeed in bringing lasting change.
Machiavelli claims that Moses killed uncountable numbers of his own people in order to enforce his will. Machiavelli was not the first thinker to notice this pattern. 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. This is not necessarily true in every case. Machiavelli cites Cesare Borgia as an example of a lucky prince who escaped this pattern.
Through cunning political maneuvers, he managed to secure his power base. Cesare was made commander of the papal armies by his father, Pope Alexander VI , but was also heavily dependent on mercenary armies loyal to the Orsini brothers and the support of the French king. To pacify the Romagna, he sent in his henchman, Remirro de Orco, to commit acts of violence. When Remirro started to become hated for his actions, Borgia responded by ordering him to be "cut in two" to show the people that the cruelty was not from him, although it was.
When it looked as though the king of France would abandon him, Borgia sought new alliances. Finally, Machiavelli makes a point that bringing new benefits to a conquered people will not be enough to cancel the memory of old injuries, an idea Allan Gilbert said can be found in Tacitus and Seneca the Younger.
At his signal, his soldiers killed all the senators and the wealthiest citizens, completely destroying the old oligarchy. He declared himself ruler with no opposition. So secure was his power that he could afford to absent himself to go off on military campaigns in Africa. Thus, one cannot attribute to fortune or virtue what he achieved without either.
After he laid siege to the governing council and terrified the citizenry, he had then set up a government with himself as absolute ruler. However, in an ironic twist, Oliverotto was killed the same way his opponents were, as Cesare Borgia had him strangled after he invited Oliverotto and Vitellozzo Vitelli to a friendly setting.
Machiavelli advises that a prince should carefully calculate all the wicked deeds he needs to do to secure his power, and then execute them all in one stroke. In this way, his subjects will slowly forget his cruel deeds and the prince can better align himself with his subjects.
Princes who fail to do this, who hesitate in their ruthlessness, will have to "keep a knife by his side" and protect himself at all costs, as he can never trust himself amongst his subjects. Gilbert —55 remarks that this chapter is even less traditional than those it follows, not only in its treatment of criminal behavior, but also in the advice to take power from people at a stroke, noting that precisely the opposite had been advised by Aristotle in his Politics 5.
On the other hand, Gilbert shows that another piece of advice in this chapter, to give benefits when it will not appear forced, was traditional. This, he says, does not require extreme virtue or fortune, only "fortunate astuteness". Machiavelli makes an important distinction between two groups that are present in every city, and have very different appetites driving them: the "great" and the "people". The "great" wish to oppress and rule the "people", while the "people" wish not to be ruled or oppressed.
A principality is not the only outcome possible from these appetites, because it can also lead to either "liberty" or "license". A principality is put into place either by the "great" or the "people" when they have the opportunity to take power, but find resistance from the other side.
They assign a leader who can be popular to the people while the great benefit, or a strong authority defending the people against the great. Machiavelli goes on to say that a prince who obtains power through the support of the nobles has a harder time staying in power than someone who is chosen by the common people; since the former finds himself surrounded by people who consider themselves his equals.
He has to resort to malevolent measures to satisfy the nobles. One cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing to oppress, while the former only desire not to be oppressed. Also a prince cannot afford to keep the common people hostile as they are larger in number while the nobles smaller. Therefore, the great should be made and unmade every day.
There are two types of great people that might be encountered: Those who are bound to the prince. Concerning these it is important to distinguish between two types of obligated great people, those who are rapacious and those who are not.
It is the latter who can and should be honoured. Those who are not bound to the new prince. Once again these need to be divided into two types: those with a weak spirit a prince can make use of them if they are of good counsel and those who shun being bound because of their own ambition these should be watched and feared as enemies.
How to win over people depends on circumstances. Machiavelli advises: Do not get frightened in adversity. One should avoid ruling via magistrates, if one wishes to be able to "ascend" to absolute rule quickly and safely. One should make sure that the people need the prince, especially if a time of need should come. How to judge the strength of principalities Chapter 10 [ edit ] The way to judge the strength of a princedom is to see whether it can defend itself, or whether it needs to depend on allies.
This does not just mean that the cities should be prepared and the people trained; a prince who is hated is also exposed. Ecclesiastical principates Chapter 11 [ edit ] Leo X : a pope, but also a member of the Medici family. Machiavelli suggested they should treat the church as a princedom, as the Borgia family had, in order to conquer Italy, and found new modes and orders. This type of "princedom" refers for example explicitly to the Catholic church, which is of course not traditionally thought of as a princedom.
According to Machiavelli, these are relatively easy to maintain, once founded. They do not need to defend themselves militarily, nor to govern their subjects. Machiavelli discusses the recent history of the Church as if it were a princedom that was in competition to conquer Italy against other princes. He points to factionalism as a historical weak point in the Church, and points to the recent example of the Borgia family as a better strategy which almost worked.
He then explicitly proposes that the Medici are now in a position to try the same thing. Defense and military Chapter 12—14 [ edit ] 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. He should be "armed" with his own arms. 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 , and in this he was innovative, and he also had personal experience in Florence.
He believes they are useless to a ruler because they are undisciplined, cowardly, and without any loyalty, being motivated only by money.
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, not books.