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Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ and its Relevance to Modern Politics

Info: 9943 words (40 pages) Dissertation
Published: 30th Jul 2021

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Tagged: PoliticsLiterature

Machiavelli was a civil servant for the Florentine republic. He lost his political position and power when the republic collapsed and the Medici family returned to rule. Banished from political life in Florence to his estate in the Tuscan countryside, a view in the distance of the unmistakable silhouette of Brunelleschi’s red and white dome, flanked by Giotto’s marble bell tower. A man with a view of the place in which his heart lies, Florence is just 10 miles away. This visual idea of misfortune can be seen to key reason why fortune and how to overcome misfortune plays such a dominant role in ‘The Prince’, first sent as a letter to the ‘Magnificent Lorenzo de’ Medici’, the ruler of Florence as practically a job application before it was published in 1532. ‘The Prince’ is essentially a how to guide for ruling and is practically written with no over ambitious phrasing or difficult word play. In its simplest explanation ‘The Prince’ follows the idea’s that the end of staying in power justifies any means used to do so – no matter how horrific. The normalisation of horrific acts within the book granted Machiavelli harsh criticism although some claim that he was just writing what he saw happening in his contempory political situation.

I believe that this short introduction to Machiavelli is sufficient as a base block to build off for the rest of this dissertation. This small packet of background information allows me to start to explain my arguments and how the essay is going to be structured. I will start by analysing the main book in question ‘The Prince’ I will split it into four categories, those being chapters one to eleven, which discuss the ideas of principalities and states. Chapters twelve to fourteen can be seen to discuss military power and the proper conduct of a prince as military leader. Chapters fifth-teen to twenty-three discuss what the character the prince and their behaviour. Finally, chapters twenty-four to twenty-six discuss Italy’s contempory political situation.

Using this book review as a baseline I will go into detail about the differences in political situations of the Italian renaissance and the modern day and will apply his theories to current politics and see how relevant his understand of political interaction is.

This will include the analysis of modern day issues such as how his political philosophy applies to the ideas of the ‘alt-right’, military actions and the modern-day phenomenon of ‘fake news’.

By the end of this essay I aim to prove the idea that Machiavelli’s work has a modern application and can be seen to have a great understanding of the political sphere and therefore a great influence on our contempory political domain.

The first known review of ‘The Prince’, came from a member of the clergy, “I found this type of book to be written by an enemy of the human race”[1], concluded Cardinal Pole.

This negative understanding went on to embody Machiavelli as a hole leading the coining of phrases in his namesake such as someone “Machiavellian” or something “Machiavellian”, terms that infer a “Cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, especially in politics”[2] ‘The Prince’ has inspired many important figures of History it has been said that a copy of the book has been on the bedside table of Louis XIV, Napoleon, Bismarck, Cromwell and Antonio Gramsci.

“I have not embellished or crammed this book with rounded periods or big impressive words or with any blandishment or superfluous decoration of the kind which many have produced, for my ambition has been either that nothing should distinguish my book, or that it should find favour solely through the variety of its contents”[3] says the letter that accompanied the treaty. The strong, fluid, unusual, direct, and straightforward writing style also indicates the intention of the to generate a positive and solid reaction on Lorenzo. It can be argued that the main intention of Machiavelli’s was to regain a position of political power such as that of an assessor in the Florentine administration. Machiavelli argued that due to his first-hand experience during his role as representative of the city-state during the period of the Florentine republic, he had been able to gain the experience and knowledge necessary and thus what had been reflected on to ‘The Prince’ although he claims that the real reason why he is able to comment on the matter of princes is that he is a citizen and not a prince – “just as men who are sketching the landscape put them-selves down in the plain to study the nature of mountains and the highlands, and to study the lowlands they put themselves high on the mountains, so, to comprehend fully the nature of people, one must be a prince, and to comprehend fully the nature of princes one must be an ordinary citizen”[4]. Although attributed by readers such as Cardinal Pole as evil the original text is a treaty on politics as the art of the possible, as well as analytical description of the diverse forms of state power as well as how to achieve it.

Chapters one to eleven

Firstly, Machiavelli states there are two types of states, one being a republic and the other being a principality. Machiavelli states at the beginning of the Prices that he won’t be discussing ideas of republics by any means, rather looking at just how “principalities” might be obtained and how they should be governed. Principalities are assimilated or our created by ones self. It is seen that  principalities that are ‘new’ come in the forms of being added to a ruler’s present land or are totally new. New principalities can be seen to have two histories, a history of being ruled over or a history of freedom. The way to gain new principalities are for Machiavelli is through either luck or through strength. “a prince wins them by arms of others or with his own”[5]

Hereditary principalities, which come from the prince’s own family links, can be seen to be easier to keep up, because custom keeps the prince’s position of power in a firm stability, this is of course he does not make himself a figure of hatred. New principalities are where the real issues are found for princes. Individuals will change those in power to better their own standing within the world, however this rarely works and most end up pawns in a power struggle. This is because when another leader takes control he must do so using power. The first struggle here is that you find a great number of enemies when rising to become leader. The second is that you have to contend with those that helped you place yourself in power, as their ambitiousness becomes problematic to your rule. What is meant here is that the people that helped you become prince will want to reach the heights you have reached and not settle for their ‘Lot’ in life rather they seek to better it. If vanquished regions attached to yours have both the same dialect and similar customs, it is easy to keep them, this becomes especially easy  if they were of family rule and therefore lacked autonomy. “when they are, it is a very easy matter to hold onto them”[6]

Be that as it may, if new territories are distinctive in dialect and customs, they are hard to keep. The best methods are to go and live there yourself, to establish colonies in them, to ensure the neighbouring minor powers, to weaken strong factions inside the state, and to make preparations for remote powers. It is critical to manage creating political problems early, as opposed to hold up until it is past the point of no return. Machiavelli uses the example of King Louis and how he did not take after these policies in Italy and hence neglected to keep his territories. “he observed none of the rules observed by otherers who have seized countries and determined to hold onto them”[7]

Machiavelli states that a principality can be seen to be governed solely by one single ruler, it is normally the case that the prince is helped by appointed ministers. The second type being by a leader and the inherited nobles of the land, these families can be seen to have power of their own regard rather than relying on the princes for power or for the loyalty of their subjects. An example of the first kind is that of the Turkish sultan, he is able to divide his kingdom into wards that are then overseen by his administrator’s, these act as ministers or people that are beneath him. An example of the second kind is that of the kingdom of France. The French king has to battle with many lords of the land who all have long-lasting rights. “the Turkish empire is ruled by one man; all others are his servants”[8] Since the sultan’s overseers are reliant on him for their own power, they are to gain nothing from the usurping of their leader. In any case, if a trespasser had a sufficiently strong armed force to defeat the sultan and the Turkish adminstrators then, it is easy to keep their newly won territory, as the local population are not personally faithful to the overseers of their sector. However the opposite can be said for the principality of France as the nobles are by nature determined and would be prepared to betray the king in the light of gaining more power. In any case, in the event that they assist you in overcoming the nation, they will also be prepared to turn on you. Regardless of the possibility that you execute the previous imperial household, the local nobility remain, and in more cases than most it is impossible to either please them or remove them. Machiavelli states that the idea of taking over a region depends not on the character of the prince but rather on the character of the region in question. In the event that the vanquished territory was some time ago a republic, in which the citizens were used to living under their own laws, you must destroy it, go live in it, or let the citizens live under their own particular laws with a legislature that is inviting to you. In the event that you don’t crush the city and start again, the city will crush you, Machiavelli believes so furiously will the citizens recollect and ache for their liberty.

Private citizens progress toward becoming princes down the path of luck or the path of self-excellence. It is better to do so through your own ability rather than having a reliance on luck. Those who progress toward becoming prince through their particular strength experience issues picking up power, however keep it easily – “the less a man has relied on fortune the stronger he has made his position”[9].it is when you take into account beginner states that the trouble starts. Th is because those that were glad under the old rules will want things to stay the same, it is also an issue that citizens are not likely to support fresh leadership if they themselves have not seen it work. Citizens who move toward becoming leaders through the path of luck or if they have the support of contemporaries (for example Nobles) think that it’s easy to obtain their positions, yet they find it hard to keep possession of them. It can be understood that when created through luck the princes lack the skills required of them for powerful leadership. Machiavelli states that in most cases they have a lack of command, and the army they used to conquer is not loyal to them rather their associates. Keeping with the themes of becoming a prince found within chapter seven, Machiavelli identifies the methods of criminal means or electoral success. Machiavelli states he is to ignore the first idea as it is self-evident. Harsh actions,  however malicious, can be seen to be defensible if they are completed to found a leaders own position of power. Harsh actions are more serious when they inflicted over a period of some time. The Prince should choose what number of injuries he must dispense in advance and do them at the same time to keep his subjects from constantly resenting them. However, benefits should be distributed slowly, so that individuals savour them. ” Benefits must be conferred gradually, this way they taste better”[10]

At the point when private citizens move toward becoming leaders via support from the local population; these are known as constitutional principalities, Machiavelli writes “one becomes a prince in this case with the favour of the people or of the nobles”[11]. This is an achievable position and can be found by having the support of regular voting citizens or the principalities nobility. Within the time two classes are found in each city. The nobility require just to coerce the general population, and the general population need just to maintain a strategic distance from coercion. This magnetic situation leads to three possible modes of leadership: a republic, a monarchy or a rebellion.  when the nobility come under pressure from the general population, they attempt to make a sworn member of the nobility the prince and in doing so they are able to secure their own civil liberties. The opposite being when the general population feel they can’t struggle against the nobility anymore, they attempt to position themselves with a kindred native leader with a specific end goal to secure their own privileges. Machiavelli states it is a hard task to satisfy the nobility by pursuing respectability, however this would in most cases gratify the general population.

Irrespective of how the prince gains his power, it is of the upmost importance for him to bend over backward to win the gratification of those in the general population, otherwise if the prince finds himself in a bad spot he has no bed of support to cushion the blow. the Prince is obligated to not bamboozle himself when trying to understand the dependability of the general population. On the other hand, it is important for a Prince to remember he who makes necessary arrangements and has the ability to command the general population will in most cases never find them as an enemy. A prince who is smart determines to persuade the citizens of his principality that they themselves are reliant on his leadership and how the prosperity of the principality they live under; once this has been established by a prince it is determined that he can trust his citizens to come to his defence. another way a prince can conform his position is to hold leadership of his own men and not rely on the armies of the associates of the court. On the off chance that a Prince is able to handle a personal armed force whether that be through his own army or by paying for a mercenary army himself. This would greaty benefit the Prince’s strength and also means he does not rely on anyone for assistance. If this is not the case and the leader resorts to hiding behind the fortifications of a city wall then the prince will always have a weakness; that being he has to rely on others. The second idea is not wholly bad as with the right strategy it can be seen to be a successful. An example that Machiavelli gives is that of the free cities in Germany.

Firstly, I would like to state that instead of using the word prince to refer to modern politicians I will use the word leader. I would argue that the movement from prince is required as hereditary movement of political power is not a major construct in modern politics. We can start by stating things that are not relevant to modern politics. The need for the forceful taking of principalities and medieval brutality are things that as a civilisation we have grown out of, although I would argue that the techniques can be translated and brought to the twenty-first century. The modern-day equivalent of killing the opposing Princes family is sending political rivals to prison.    This first section of Machiavelli can be seen to mainly focus on how leadership if formed within the idea of principalities. The key points that can be taken from this and related to the modern political sphere are inherently involving human nature and relationships. If you act indecisive within the political sphere you will lose. A modern-day example of this could be Brexit, it was argued that the remain campaign’s top leaders, such as Jeremy Corbyn, were indecisive and were therefore, unable to turn enough voters by the time the referendum came around. The ideas presented on the relationships between prince and citizen are true to this day. That being if the citizens do not respect you, through fear or love, you will not be leader. This great understand of human relationships can be seen to come out when talking about the way in which people are willing to switch principalities “The dynamic Machiavelli described is not different from that faced by a political party that has unseated an incumbent party. The new governing party continues to face opposition from those who are unseated, and those who supported the new party have high expectations for changes that will improve their lives. Without satisfying the desires of either side, the leader will make enemies of his opposition and his former supporters.”[12] Another way in which the actions of Machiavelli can be modernised if through the idea that leaders might have to make harsh decisions. Instead of killing off members of the citizenry to secure your hold the modern-day equivalent could be the firing of a member of your cabinet. An example of this action is when Corbyn fired Hilary Benn from the shadow cabinet.[13] Another key piece of relevant information presented by Machiavelli is that of punishment and reward, to make punishment an ongoing ordeal is to instil hatred of the leader where as to do it all in one go will shock more but there is more chance of people getting on board and they are more likely to accept each other. Corrow uses the example of a new CEO coming into a company and bringing in a new board whilst also having to let people go, they argue that if done over an extended period of time that “that approach brings depression and uncertainty to those being led and eventually leads to resentment of the leadership. If the leader takes the unpleasant action quickly and in full measure, the initial effect will be drastic, but the leader allows more time afterward for people to understand the new structure and eventually accept the leader’s decision”[14]

Chapter Twelve to Fourteen

As we have deliberated through the diverse types of states in Chapters two through to eleven, Machiavelli attention turns from this to the ideas of both assaulting and defending principalities. It is a necessity for Leaders to establish great frameworks, of which in the foundations are incorporated both great rules and great armed forces. For Machiavelli, law is an impossibility without the required military to back it up. As arms are a requirement to uphold law it is stated that in these chapter Machiavelli will only discuss armed forces rather than law itself. Armed forces when the goal is defence can be understood as four options, those being the prince’s own, mercenaries, auxiliaries, or a blend of the three. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are inherently problematic – Machiavelli states “if a prince bases the defence of his state on mercenaries he will never achieve stability or security”[15] In the event that a soldier of fortune is skilled, he will try to leverage his will against that of the prince thus making himself more powerful and the Prince weaker. However the mercenary that is bumbling, will also rout the prince as once paid for he represents the prince and his failures become the prince’s failures. Just leaders who are capable of calling their own men to arms have the seeds for success. To further show the issues reliance on mercenaries, Machiavelli lists numerous cases in which mercenaries have betrayed their paymaster. Mercenary armies within Italy can be traced to the fall of the holy roman empire and the following fighting between the nobility and the religious leaders and citizens. It was in this perios due to the lack to fighting knowledge on the side of the citizens and pops that the use of mercenary armies became the norm. this lead to the fact that the majority of armies in Italy being run as a mercenary company. Auxiliaries troops are sent by another ruler to help you. Just as with mercenaries, on the off chance that they lose, you are demolished, and on the off chance that they win, you are in their power. Auxiliaries arrive to help on the orders of someone else. Mercenaries can be seen as less of a risk, as there only leader is gold, once gold stops flowing it is likely that are to disband rather than diverge for the ownership of your principality. In these times it can be seen that to lose one’s own army and lose is still better than whole-heartily destroying your enemy with another prince’s auxiliaries, it can be seen a triumph using acquired troops is not by any stretch of the imagination a triumph. A realm that does not have its own army is not by any stretch of the imagination protected, as it relies on fortune rather than its own ability to defend itself. There is not one thing more inviting to opponents than a principality that is not based itself in strength. What Machiavelli is aiming to explain is that auxiliaries, are considerably more destructive when put into relation with mercenaries. This is because mercenaries are there to make money and self-motivated whereas these fighters sent by another prince are not under your control in the slightest and put you at a general political disadvantage “experience has shown that only Princes and armed republics achieve solid success”[16]

Returning to the point being made, the clear understanding from Machiavelli is that the main genuine strength is self-sufficiency, as stated before it is better to lose a fight yourself rather than someone else win the fight for you as the win becomes their own. Unless a prince can handle his very own army citizens or subjects, he has no genuine power. Virtù, a prince’s own strength, is always desirable over depending on luck or the support of others the study of war should be a prince’s principle objective, for war is a ruler’s just work – “the first way to lose your state is to neglect the art of war; the first way to win a state is to be skilled in the art of war”[17] Learning of war is so indispensable that it keeps princes in power as well as can make princes out of private citizens. On the off chance that princes turn out to be excessively refined, making it impossible to study this workmanship, then it means that their principality is in danger of being lost. Having no arms makes others look down upon you. Nobody can anticipate that an outfitted prince will comply with a defenceless prince. “there is simply no comparison between a man who is armed and a man who is not”[18]  Subsequently a prince who does not understand military matters won’t have the capacity to function admirably with his soldiers. Indeed, even in peacetime, a prince must focus on war by exercises and by study. Chasing is fantastic exercise, because it strengthens the body and makes the prince more acquainted with the surrounding territory. A prince should always be asking himself how to make the best military movement with use of the landscape. A prince should also exercise his psyche by perusing the histories of extraordinary men and how they battled, with a specific end goal to mirror them. Extraordinary leaders have always attempted to copy the qualities of those commendable examples who went before them. By studying their precepts in great times, the prince will be prepared when fortune changes.

This section is the most outdated part of Machiavelli’s work as militaristically we have come so far from medieval combat although it can still be argued that there are things taken by modern day leaders. For instance, the idea that an army of soldiers from your own principality are what’s best for defending yourself is universally accepted, this can be seen as most countries in the world have a base armed force that they use for defence and to attack. Corrow also argues that the idea of a modern leader is also closely related to Machiavelli as somebody who is primarily concerned with protection “Today, many political leaders intone the primary obligation of national leadership is to protect the citizens. If the people are under threat of arms, they cannot prosper.”[19] It can also be seen that there is a modern day equivalent to the use of mercenaries with private contractors, that being you don’t not have full control of their actions and should not be relied on to complete an engagement in the way that you want them too. Machiavelli was right when he said you can have a conflict of interest, this can be seen in the leak of the panama papers. Triple-canopy is a private military contractor and we found out in the leak that they had been under investigation by the US government “Triple Canopy, too, had now come under media scrutiny — for allegedly firing on Iraqi civilians, misleading family members about the death of a security worker in Iraq, buying weapons on the black market, and mismanaging contracts in myriad ways.”[20] This is a perfect example of how mercenaries have their own interests at heart before those of their employers. Finally, if we look at Machiavelli’s stance on auxiliary troops we can find a modern example in the rise of the Taliban – the American and British governments trained the Taliban to fight the Soviet Union when they invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The Taliban later turned on the ‘West’ and became the lead terrorist group in the world. This example fits in with what Machiavelli had warned about when he said auxiliary troops were faithfully to someone else, in the case of the Taliban, that being they were more faithful to an extreme fundamentalist version of Islam. Although the ideas put forward in this section have been related to modern day leadership – but as stated in the beginning of this section, military might has advanced too far for Machiavelli’s guide to be taking as a concrete way of leadership. The introduction of things such as nuclear weapons have completely changed the way warfare has been waged. The superpowers of today barely clash with one hundred percent of their forces as they would have in Machiavelli’s day. Nuclear deterrent itself can be seen to be a large enough reason for the movement from the total war styles of the renaissance to the controlled skirmishes that we have today. “On the international level, as has been suggested, we are moving out of the era of the efficacy of force and the threat of force.”[21] This being due to the movement away from large scale warfare and because of, what I believe is natural progression of society away from inherent violence.

Chapters Fifteen to Twenty-four

The best possible conduct of princes toward subjects and allies remains to be discussed. Numerous others have treated this subject; however, Machiavelli bases his observations on his present reality, not on an envisioned perfect. “since my intention is to say something that will prove of practical use to the enquirer, I thought it proper to represent things as they are in real truth, rather than what they are imagined”[22]  There is so much distinction between the way individuals should act and the way they do act that any prince who tries to do what he should will demolish himself. A prince must know when to act corruptly. Everybody agrees that a prince should have all great qualities, but since that is impossible, a wise prince will maintain a strategic distance from those vices that would destroy his power and not stress over the rest. Some actions that seem virtuous will destroy a prince, while others that seem like vices will make a prince prosper.  A reputation for generosity is thought to be desirable, however creating it can be dangerous. Generosity exercised in genuinely virtuous ways is never seen by others, so if you need to be considered as a generous ruler, you must keep up a lavish open display. To support this propensity, a prince must raise taxes and squeeze cash from his subjects. Generosity of this sort benefits few and harms numerous. The prince’s subjects will hate him, and nobody will respect him because he is poor. Along these lines, a wise prince wouldn’t fret being known as a miser, because stinginess is a bad habit that allows him to rule. On the off chance that a prince is giving without end other individuals’ property, he can bear to be generous, yet if he is giving endlessly his own resources, he will end up noticeably grasping and hated or poor and despised. Every prince will need to be considered benevolent, yet benevolence should not be mismanaged. Machiavelli gives the example of Cesare Borgia, he says that by being cruel, Borgia restored peace and request to the Romagna. No prince should mind being called cruel for keeping his subjects serene and faithful “a Prince must not worry if he incurs reproach for his cruelty so long as he keeps his subject united and loyal”[23] Punishing a couple, and thus turning away disorder, is superior to enabling troubles to build up that will hurt numerous. New rulers can’t abstain from seeming cruel, because their states are insecure. Still, a prince should not be excessively rash or excessively fearful. “by making an example of one or two, he will prove more compassionate than those who, being too compassionate, allow disorders that lead to murder and rapine”[24] Machiavelli states that In the event that you can’t be both loved and feared, then it is ideal to be feared than loved. Men are for the most part flighty, apprehensive of risk, and eager. At the point when a prince benefits them, they will do anything for the prince, however when inconvenience comes, they will desert the prince. Individuals will break ties of love in the event that it is further bolstering their good fortune, yet fear of punishment they will never transgress. A prince must be mindful so as not to make himself hated, despite the fact that he is feared; to do this, he must keep his hands off his subjects’ property and their ladies. Individuals will sooner overlook the demise of a father than the loss of a legacy. Nonetheless, when a prince commands an army, he must be cruel keeping in mind the end goal to control his troops.

In conclusion, individuals love at their own wish, however fear at the prince’s will, so a wise ruler will depend on what he can best control – “a wise Prince relies on what he can control, not on that in which he can’t control”[25] Everyone knows that princes should keep their assertion, yet we see that the princes who have accomplished the most have been accomplished at trickiness. A prince may battle with laws, which is the method for individuals, or with constrain, which is the method for animals. A prince should copy the fox in tricky as well as the lion in strength. A wise prince should never keep his pledge when it would conflict with his interest, because he can anticipate that others will do likewise. Keeping in mind the end goal to force it off, you must be a decent liar, however you will always observe individuals willing to be misdirected.  it is useful to seem to be virtuous, however you must be prepared to act the opposite way if the situation requires it. A prince should do great in the event that he can, yet be prepared to do malicious on the off chance that he must. However, a prince must be mindful so as to always act in a way that appears virtuous, for some can see you, yet few know how you truly are in the event that a ruler conquers and maintains his state, everybody will praise him, judging his actions by their outcome. A prince must abstain from getting to be noticeably hated or despised. Taking the property or the ladies of his subjects will make him hated. Being frivolous, indecisive, and ‘womanly’ will make him despised. Every one of the prince’s actions should show seriousness, strength, and decisiveness. The best defence against interior threats such as conspiracy is to be neither hated nor despised – “one of the most powerful safeguards a prince can have against conspiracies is to avoid being hated by the populace”[26] In the event that a conspirator thinks that slaughtering the prince will infuriate the general population, he will reconsider.

Wise Princes are mindful so as not to alienate the nobles and to keep the general population upbeat. In France, the parliament restrains the desire of the nobles and favours the general population, without straightforwardly including the king, so that he can’t be accused of favouritism. Princes should give others a chance to do the unpleasant tasks, accomplishing for themselves what will make them look great. Machiavelli then goes onto back up his understands of how a prince should act by looking at an argument in which he feels people will use against him. Individuals may protest that the careers of the Roman emperor’s conflict with this contention, because huge numbers of them were incredibly appreciated, yet were still assassinated. This is because they needed to manage their soldiers, and they couldn’t satisfy both the soldiers, who needed warlike leaders, and the general population, who needed peace. Marcus, Pertinax, and Alexander were all compassionate and just, however just Marcus escaped assassination, because he was an inherited ruler and did not owe his power to the army. Commodus, Severus, Antoninus, and Maximinus were all cruel and insatiable, and just Severus escaped assassination, because he was so clever and ruthless, and because he kept up a splendid reputation. Be that as it may, in Machiavelli’s opportunity, princes don’t have the same need to satisfy their armies, because armies are not used to being as one for long stretches and controlling entire provinces, the way Roman armies were. Instead, princes should satisfy the general population, who are more powerful. Princes have attempted various tactics to look after power: disarming their subjects, partitioning their subjects into factions, empowering their enemies, prevailing upon the suspicious, fabricating new fortresses, and tearing down fortresses.

“To keep a secure hold on their states some princes have dis-armed their subjects; some have kept the towns subject to them divided; some have purposefully fostered animosity against themselves; some have endeavoured to win over those who were initially suspect”[27] New princes must never disarm their subjects, for if a prince arms his kin, their arms turn into his. If a prince disarms them, the general population will hate him, and he will be compelled to utilize mercenaries which was tackled in chapters twelve to fourteen. Tried and true way of thinking says that making factions is a decent approach to control a state. This may have been genuine when Italy was more stable, yet not in Machiavelli’s opportunity. At the point when factious cities are undermined by invaders, they rapidly fall. He uses the example of Venice – “the venetians, influenced by the considerations I gave above, fostered the Guelf and Ghibelline factions in their subject cities “this lead to the movement to principality of one of the factions “when the venetians were routed at Vaila one faction immediately summoned up courage and took the whole state from them”[28]

Because rulers wind up noticeably grander by beating difficulties, some believe that a prince should secretly energize his enemies, so that when he overcomes them, his reputation will be more noteworthy whilst also eliminating the threat of his enemies in one swoop rather than extending the punishment and thus leading to more hatred.

Some new princes find that those who were at first suspect demonstrate more useful than others in overseeing the state. They are anxious to substantiate themselves to the prince. Those who helped the prince pick up power may have done as such out of dissatisfaction with the earlier state, and the new state may also neglect to please them. “the prince who is more afraid of his own people than of foreign interference should build fortresses”[29] Princes frequently assemble fortresses to shield themselves from plotters and sudden attacks. On the off chance that a prince fears his subjects more than remote invaders, he should manufacture fortresses. The best fortress, in any case, is not to be hated by the people. Nothing enhances a ruler’s reputation more than undertaking incredible conquests. Ferdinand of Spain’s vocation provides a decent illustration. He had assaulted Granada; driven the Moors out of Spain; and assaulted Africa, Italy, and France. These activities kept his subjects astonished and engrossed, so that nobody had sufficient energy to do anything against him.  As to interior affairs, princes should always discover important ways to remunerate or punish any exceptional actions.

Rulers must never stay unbiased. In the case of neighbouring rulers battle, you must favour one side, because on the off chance that you don’t, the champ will undermine you, and the loser won’t become your supporter. ”A prince also wins prestige for being a true friend or a true enemy, that is, for revealing himself without any reservation in favour of one side against another”[30]   Regardless of whether your partner wins, he will be appreciative to you. Be that as it may, on the off chance that you can keep away from it, you should never align with someone more powerful than yourself, because on the off chance that he wins, you might be in his power.

A prince should show that he loves ability and rewards it. He should urge his citizens to prosper in their occupations. He should keep the general population engaged with festivals at suitable times. Also, he should offer consideration regarding the various municipal groups, going to some of their activities, however without showing up undignified. Choosing great ministers is key, because a ruler shows his insight in his decision of the men around him. On the off chance that a man can’t have smart thoughts himself, he must be sufficiently smart to distinguish his minister’s smart thoughts from his terrible ones, Machiavelli states “there are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the second appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. The first kind is excellent the second good, and the third kind useless”[31]   The minister must think always about the prince, not of himself. The prince should respect and reward his minister, so that the minister will be reliant on the prince.

Unless rulers are shrewd about choosing their advisors, they will get themselves surrounded by flatterers. The best way to prepare for blandishment is to show that you are not outraged by reality or as Machiavelli put It “the only way to safeguard yourself against flatterer’s is by letting people understand you are not afraid of the truth”[32]. However, in the event that anybody can speak their brain to you, you won’t be respected. A wise prince will pick keen advisors and enable just them to speak to be honest, and just when he asks for their opinions. He should listen painstakingly, however settle on his own decisions and stick to them.

A prince who is not wise can never get great counsel, unless he puts himself totally in the hands of a wise man; yet such a man will soon assume control over his state. An insensible prince who takes exhortation from several counsellors will never have the capacity to accommodate their clashing opinions, for each minister will think about his own interests. Men will always be disloyal unless a prince forces them to be faithful. ”The actions of a new prince attract much more attention than those of a hereditary ruler.”[33] If another prince follows these principles, he will soon be as secure as an inherited ruler, because if individuals discover they are doing admirably in the present, they won’t search for changes. Be that as it may, any individual who acquires another state and after that loses it through inadequacy is disgraced. The Italian rulers who have lost their states did as such because they needed military power, made their subjects hate them, or were not able defend against the nobles. They should not accuse misfortune but rather their own laziness for their losses, because they didn’t make adequate preparations.

Although an inherently long section, it is filled with ideas that directly relate to the question of how Machiavelli is related to modern politics. The realism imposed by Machiavelli onto the political situation within this section is where most of the negativity towards ‘The Prince’ comes from. A definite modernised form can be seen to play out in modern politics in the form of party politics. The modernisation being instead of killing ministers that don’t agree with you, pushing their careers into obscurity and not allowing them into a position of relevant power. Party politics also comes into play when Machiavelli warns about ministers and the sharing of political power. The idea of sharing a principality need to be updated to fit with modern situations. Using the example of party politics, it can be seen that members of the party represent both ministers and potential princes. This means that if you share the political stage with someone that is well liked then it can be seen that you share principality with them inside the party. My example of this is the political conflict between Boris Johnson and David Cameron that had taken place leading up and during the Brexit referendum.[34]  Johnson refused to take the party stance (as well as many other MPs) on Brexit instead, leaving Cameron in the cold as the head of the remain campaign. Johnson is a political character that I believe acts in a very Machiavellian way. It can be argued he played the role of the humorous baffled London mayor well. This led him to gaining great support from the British public leading him to become the most popular politician in the UK at one point. After his actions in the Brexit referendum people started to distrust him as a politician, you can see through the YouGov opinion pages that Johnson has suffered a decline in popularity because of these actions.[35]

The idea that a leader must be ready to deal with any situation by providing the correct response is an idea that is celebrated in leadership today. Another thing that can be seen in the modern day is the use of fortresses as means of protection. I will update the term from that meaning “A military stronghold, especially a strong and fortified town”[36] to ‘a place where a reasonable defensibility has been set up’. Places that are treated as fortresses in this modern political arena are used to defend leaders from terrorist attacks, examples in the UK are Buckingham Palace and the houses of parliament. The latter seeing off a terrorist attack on March 22nd of this year.[37] Although these ideas presented by Machiavelli can be seen to have relevance some ideas are out dated such as the idea that fear governs better than love. The reason I feel this is outdated as from history fear, without failure, always leads to hate – in Machiavelli’s own principles that leads to the downfall of your leadership. I also would argue that fear in the modern democratic system does not hold much ground due to the liberty and freedom that citizens have access to.

Chapter Twenty-five to Twenty-six

Many individuals believe that fortune controls everything, so that there is no use in attempting to act, however fortune controls just 50% of one’s actions, leaving through and through freedom to control the other half claims Machiavelli. It can be seen that misfortune can be contrasted with a stream that floods, destroying everything in its way. Be that as it may, when the climate is great, individuals can get ready dams and dikes to control the surge. On the off chance that Italy had such preparations, she would not have suffered so much in the present floods.

Princes are successful one day and destroyed the following, with no adjustment in their natures. Two men may use the same strategy, yet just a single succeeds; and two men may use diverse methods, however achieve the same objective, all because the circumstances do or sometimes fall short for their actions. In the event that a man is successful by acting one way and the circumstances transform, he will come up short on the off chance that he does not change his methods. “the one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise the one whose policy clashes with the times does not”[38] Be that as it may, men are never sufficiently adaptable to change, either because their natures won’t let them or because they end up noticeably accustomed to a specific conduct bringing success.

It is ideal to be intense than bashful and cautious, because fortune is a lady, and the man who wants to control her must treat her roughly. There couldn’t be a more proper time to welcome another ruler to Italy. All together for the greatness of Italian spirit to be shown, Italy must be embarrassed first. In spite of the fact that it showed up a prince was coming to lead her, misfortune struck him down, so that she still waits anxiously for her rescuer. Machiavelli believes The Medici family can fill this part, in the event that they will copy the precepts Machiavelli has clarified. Indeed, even signs from God indicate their coming greatness. The other Italian princes never accomplished this objective, because their old methods of fighting were unsound. There is no absence of mettle or strength among the Italians, yet their leaders are powerless. Consequently, Italian armies have lost in the field throughout the previous 20 years. On the off chance that the Medici family need to wind up noticeably incredible leaders, they will raise their own particular armies. The various European armies, despite their successes, have weaknesses that can be abused with new strategies.  Italy has been sitting tight for a saviour to free her from oppression by the remote barbarians. Machiavelli believes the Medici have a chance to take up the cause, and unify Italy and make Italy extraordinary yet again.

Patriotism can be seen to play a major role in the final two chapters of ‘The Prince’ as Machiavelli calls for the reunification of Italy. The trend of Patriotism can be seen to relevant to modern politics, as it still has major political appeal. Some people even argue that ‘The Prince is a call for Italian unification at the forefront – “Maurizio Viroli wants us to grasp that The Prince was not the cynically devious tract it seems, but rather a patriotic appeal for a redeemer politician to arise and save Italy from foreign invaders and its own short-sighted rulers.” [39]

The Prince showed Machiavelli’s greatest strength, which “was to look back to ancient Rome and Greece and apply logic and realism to a realm previously dominated by religion and idealism. ‘Politics was at a standstill, there needed to be an understanding of the ancients so they could emulate and surpass them.”[40] This added realism helped better politics, not as a recipe for dictators to follow but as a realistic understanding of his contempory political sphere. The book has a line of nuances which provide understanding to human nature and in particular, holds a gauged focus on human nature when associated with power. This helps ‘The Prince’ become increasingly relevant as a guide to how the miss use of power looks and holds citizens and leaders to universally structure the government so that just laws are in place for the common good.

‘The Prince’ as a whole can be seen as very relevant to modern politics, the issues discussed inside of the book are still, on a base level the issues politicians face today. The realistic approach to leadership marks it out as key political text and I think it is because of this gritty light it sheds on political engagement where its relevance is found. No other work has come close to whole-heartily laying bare what you should be prepared to do if you are in contention of leadership. The book is further made relevant by what society has learned from the book on the abuses of power. Finally, I will finish with a quote, during an interview for Boston University today, James Johnson – a CAS associate professor of history and author of two prize-winning books (Listening in Paris: A Cultural History and Venice Incognito: Masks in the Serene Republic) was asked “What do you think Machiavelli would make of contemporary American politics?

He would smile that famous inscrutable smile of his, as if to say, “This looks familiar.”[41]


Benner E, ‘Machiavelli’s Prince: A New Reading’ (Oxford University Press, 2016)

‘Boris Johnson’ [Accessed on 6th May]

Boyle, D and others, ‘Attack on Parliament March 22: The Westminster rampage at the heart of Britain’s democracy’ The Telegraph   [Accessed on 5th May 2017]

Corrow C, ‘Machiavelli in a Western Democracy: Is The Prince Relevant in the 21st Century?’ (George Mason University, 2014)

Craigie, William and Others ‘Definition of Fortress’ The Oxford English Dictionary     [accessed on 5th May 2017]

Craigie, William and Others ‘Definition of Machiavellian’ The Oxford English Dictionary     [accessed on 1st February 2017]

D’Amato A, ‘The Relevance of Machiavelli to Contemporary World Politics’, Chapter 9, The Political Calculus (1972)

Kirkup J, ‘A Wrestling Match Between Boris Johnson and David Cameron Reveals the True Nature of Their Rivalry’ The Telegraph UK, [accessed on 6th May 2107]

Ignatieff M, ‘Machiavelli Was Right’ The Atlantic (Dec 2013) [Accessed 7th May 2017]

‘Is Machiavelli still relevant’ European University Institute (Oct 2013) [Accessed 7th May 2017]

Machiavelli N, ‘The Prince’, (Penguin UK, 2004)

O’Rourke J, ‘Machiavelli’s The Prince: Still Relevant after All These Years’ Boston University today (Jun 2013) [Accessed 8th May 2017]

Trend, Nick ‘Florence and Machiavelli: sympathy for the devil’ The Telegraph [Accessed 6th May 2017]

Weinstien, A and others, Panama Papers Include One of the US’s Biggest Wartime Contractors, Fusion TV [Accessed Monday 1st of May]

Wilkinson, M and others, ‘EU referendum: Jeremy Corbyn sacks Hilary Benn from shadow cabinet’ The Telegraph UK [Accessed 3rd of March 2017]

[1]E Benner, ‘Machiavelli’s Prince: A New Reading’ (Oxford University Press, 2016) pp. 20

[2] William Craigie and Others ‘Definition of Machiavellian’ The Oxford English Dictionary     [accessed on 1st February 2017]

[3] N Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’, Letter to the Magnificent Lorenzo de Medici, (Penguin UK, 2004) pp. 3

[4] ibid

[5]  N Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’, how many kinds of principality there are and the ways in which they are aquired, (Penguin UK, 2004) pp. 7 – 39

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] C Corrow, Machiavelli in a Western Democracy: Is The Prince Relevant in the 21st Century? (George Mason University, 2014) pp. 1 – 9

[13] M Wilkinson and others, EU referendum: Jeremy Corbyn sacks Hilary Benn from shadow cabinet, The Telegraph UK, [Accessed 3rd of March 2017]

[14] C Corrow, Machiavelli in a Western Democracy: Is The Prince Relevant in the 21st Century? (George Mason University, 2014) pp. 1 – 9

[15]N Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’, Military Organisation and Mercenary Troops (Penguin UK, 2004) pp. 40 – 48

[16] Ibid

[17] Ibid

[18] Ibid

[19] C Corrow, Machiavelli in a Western Democracy: Is The Prince Relevant in the 21st Century? (George Mason University, 2014) pp. 1 – 9

[20] A Weinstien and others, Panama Papers Include One of the US’s Biggest Wartime Contractors, Fusion TV [Accessed Monday 1st of May]

[21]A D’Amato, The Relevance of Machiavelli to Contemporary World Politics, Chapter 9, The Political Calculus (1972)

[22] N Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’, The Things for Which Men, and Especially Prince, are Praised or Blamed (Penguin UK, 2004) pp. 50 – 78

[23] Ibid

[24] Ibid

[25] Ibid

[26] Ibid

[27] Ibid

[28] Ibid

[29] Ibid

[30] Ibid

[31] Ibid

[32] Ibid

[33] Ibid

[34] J Kirkup, A Wrestling Match Between Boris Johnson and David Cameron Reveals the True Nature of Their Rivalry, The Telegraph, [accessed on 6th May 2107]

[35] Boris Johnson [Accessed on 6th May]

[36] William Craigie and Others ‘Definition of Fortress’ The Oxford English Dictionary     [accessed on 5th May 2017]

[37] D Boyle and others, Attack on Parliament March 22: The Westminster rampage at the heart of Britain’s democracy, The telegraph   [Accessed on 5th May 2017]

[38]N Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’, How Far Human Affairs are Governed by Fortune, and How Fortune can be Opposed (Penguin UK, 2004) pp. 80

[39] M Ignatieff, ‘Machiavelli Was Right’ The Atlantic (Dec 2013) [Accessed 7th May 2017]

[40]   ‘Is Machiavelli still relevant’ European University Institute (Oct 2013) [Accessed 7th May 2017]

[41] J O’Rourke, ‘Machiavelli’s The Prince: Still Relevant after All These Years’ Boston University today (Jun 2013) [Accessed 8th May 2017]

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