The Prince

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enter Widely liked and regarded as the most prominent and successful Italian post-war politician, Andreotti was also dogged by rumours of Mafia connections. Photo courtesy of BetaFilm. Catherine Zuckert. Edited by Sam Dresser. Ever since the 16th century, when manuscript copies of his great work The Prince began to circulate in Europe, his family name has been used to describe a particularly nasty form of politics: calculating, cutthroat and self-interested. There are, to be sure, reasons for this. Machiavelli at one point advises a political leader who has recently annexed a new territory to make sure to eliminate the bloodline of the previous ruler lest they form a conspiracy to unseat him.

Nor was his advocacy of force and fraud to acquire and maintain rule the cause of individual leaders using them. What then did Machiavelli do? What did he want to achieve? Clearly not the likes of Borgia or the harsh and duplicitous Roman emperor Severus, whom Machiavelli also praises.

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However, they might not have known how to use and not use that knowledge according to necessity. As Machiavelli observes, leaders tend to persist in using the means that have enabled them to succeed in the past, even when those means are no longer suited to the circumstances. The impetuous continue to forge ahead even when caution is warranted, and the cautious do not seize the opportunities that arise. Why did Machiavelli think such a lesson was needed?

According to him, most human beings do not actually want to be virtuous or good.

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Regarded as individuals, human beings are weak and needy. By seeking to acquire ever more and to protect what we have already amassed, we naturally come into conflict. We thus join together to form political communities not only in order to acquire what we need but also to protect what we have acquired from the predations of others.

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There will always be a more or less explicit conflict between those who want to rule and those who do not want to be ruled. I n The Prince , Machiavelli states that there are three possible outcomes of the conflict between the two humours: principality, liberty or licence.

In The Prince , he confines himself to urging political leaders, once they acquire power, to seek the support of their people. They will demand ever more offices and goods as the price of their continued support. Second and more fundamental, there is strength in numbers: the people are much more numerous than the great. Machiavelli likes to use shocking examples and language.

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Because those granted high offices have more power and goods, they no longer feel as liable to oppression as the people merely subject to the government. Practices and attitudes thought to be virtuous in private individuals have deleterious results for public officials. He appeals to the desire of the politically ambitious to rule in order to convince them that the best way of realising their desire is to satisfy the desire of their people not to be oppressed. Satisfying the desire of the people to be secure in their lives, families and property is and ought to be the end or purpose of government, as Machiavelli sees it.

However, because he explicitly dedicated The Prince to a prince and addressed his advice to the politically ambitious, many readers and commentators have missed this central democratic thrust of his argument. Machiavelli teaches readers of The Prince to be able not to be good by showing them that practices and attitudes thought to be virtuous in private individuals have deleterious results for public officials.

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The Prince is a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From his correspondence, a version appears to. The Prince is a American gangster thriller film directed by Brian A. Miller. It stars Jason Patric, Bruce Willis, John Cusack, and Rain. The film received a.

Liberality was praised by ancient moralists, and generosity or charity has been praised by Christians and others to this day. However, Machiavelli points out, a political leader who depletes his own resources by generously granting offices, lands, titles and other emoluments to his aristocratic friends or partisans will lose their support when he needs it, unless that leader acquires new funds by taxing his people and so arousing their hatred.

The Prince

Rather than squander his capital by rewarding an ungrateful few, a political leader will prove himself to be truly liberal to the many by conserving his own resources so that he will be able to use them to defend himself and his government when needed. Likewise, a political leader who pardons criminals might appear to be merciful to a few, but he is cruel to his many subjects or fellow citizens who fear for their lives and property when the law is not enforced.

Machiavelli argues that political leaders have to use both force and fraud in order to acquire and maintain power. But he warns that they must always strive to appear to be full of mercy, faith, honesty, humility and religion — especially religion — even if they cannot be so in fact. Why will everyone not merely believe but praise a head of state when he claims to be waging war, rigorously enforcing the law, or raising taxes for the sake of the true faith or humanity? Readers often take this to mean simply that the end justifies the means.

In fact, political leaders act in order to acquire and maintain power for themselves.

But if a leader acts to maintain a state that protects the lives and property of his subjects or fellow citizens from external aggression and domestic crime, they will believe him when he declares that he has been acting for the common good. Rather than a noble endeavour undertaken from a sense of duty in order to achieve a common good, effective rule will be undertaken and conducted solely on the basis of a clever calculation of the best means an ambitious man can use to satisfy his desire to command without becoming hated and so possibly overthrown.

In The Prince , he points to one way of doing this by reminding his reader that there are two ways of fighting — the human way with laws, and the bestial way with force and fraud. This French court enabled the people to resist the ambition and insolence of the nobles by accusing and trying them of crimes against the king. Parlement thus contributed not only to the security of the people, but also to the security of the king.


By giving the people the power to check the arrogance and ambition of the nobles, the institution of such a court enabled the king to use the people as a means of securing his rule without his having to act directly or with force against the nobility. Just as Borgia brought good government to the Romagna by using a cruel administrator to frighten everyone into submission, and then avoided responsibility himself for the use of such cruel means by replacing his assistant with a civil court, so, Machiavelli suggests, the king of France has acted both to secure his own rule and to escape blame for the means by setting up a court in which the people judge the nobles.

Hereditary principalities, which are inherited by the ruler Mixed principalities, territories that are annexed to the ruler's existing territories. New principalities, which may be acquired by several methods: by one's own power, by the power of others, by criminal acts or extreme cruelty, or by the will of the people civic principalities.

Ecclesiastical principalities, namely the Papal States belonging to the Catholic church.

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A prince must always pay close attention to military affairs if he wants to remain in power. Machiavelli lists four types of armies:. Mercenaries or hired soldiers, which are dangerous and unreliable Auxiliaries, troops that are loaned to you by other rulers—also dangerous and unreliable.

Native troops, composed of one's own citizens or subjects—by far the most desirable kind. Mixed troops, a combination of native troops and mercenaries or auxiliaries—still less desirable than a completely native army.

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It is better to be stingy than generous. It is better to be cruel than merciful.

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Machiavelli even encourages risk taking as a reaction to risk. But as a group of FBI agents dig deeper into the case - and the deadly heists continue - it becomes clear that a larger conspiracy is at play. Director: Brian A. Company Credits. Guest Rooms. More generally, Machiavelli emphasizes that one should have regard not only for present problems but also for the future ones.

It is better to break promises if keeping them would be against one's interests. Princes must avoid making themselves hated and despised; the goodwill of the people is a better defense than any fortress. Princes should undertake great projects to enhance their reputation. The rulers of Italy have lost their states by ignoring the political and military principles Machiavelli enumerates. Fortune controls half of human affairs, but free will controls the rest, leaving the prince free to act.

However, few princes can adapt their actions to the times.