Finding The Way To Power With Niccolò Machiavelli in ‘The Prince’

REVIEW

MACHIAVELLIAN: “Cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, especially in politics.” – (Lexico.com/Oxford Dictionary)

The Prince is a pragmatic manual for those who wish to attain power, maintain or expand it. It is set against the backdrop of the Italian Renaissance and was written by Niccolò Machiavelli, who with the aim to make an impression dedicated it to Lorenzo de’ Medici.

Machiavelli begins by describing the different types of states and how they are acquired. He also states the challenges they each represent and how to overcome them. There’s a reason it has been associated with the words in the above definition and why it’s considered by some to be unethical and immoral. It is also debatable whether it can be used for good or bad intentions; to attain power in order to unify and create peace or to feed tyrannical appetites.

The book mostly separates politics from ethics and Machiavelli’s opinion of mankind is not the most positive, as he describes them as ‘fickle’, that people are generally self-interested (which is true to some extent), and how their goodwill can be manipulated. Deception is quite the star in this book. According to Machiavelli, power can be gained by deception instead of force. When it comes to being loved by the people, his advice is that being feared is much more sustainable. The middle part of the book is on preparation for warfare and the last part is about the qualities of a prince or qualities he should pretend to have. He also mentions certain figures to make examples, such as Cesare Borgia who was clearly a big inspiration to him.

This book has been influential in politics and can be seen in the way affairs are run in many states. Politicians are known to overpromise and under deliver, to carry out the deception of making false promises and later make excuses. It is also a book that speaks to the self-interested and power-hungry. However, if used with a careful interpretation, it could be used to gain power to lead with good intentions for the wellbeing of the state and its people.  

It’s a short and clear, simply constructed and without superfluous wording, as he himself says, “…not adorned with long phrases or high sounding words.” For many years, it has had and still has a notable place in the political sphere. Despite its association with cunningness, scheming and ruthlessness its advice can be used to create good strategies in business, leadership and politics. I believe how you use it or what you seek from it can influence how you enjoy it, or not.

“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

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