Machiavelli Essay, Research Paper
Machiavelli was born in Florence, in 1496. His father was a lawyer, and his family lived modestly, but was not rich. Florence in the 15th century was an independent city, owing political allegiance to no one. It was a center of learning and of considerable artistic creativity. In the 15th members of the Medici family ruled it. The Medici family was temporarily expelled from Florence in 1494, and was replaced by a friar named Savonarola who carried on with campaigns against corruption. In 1497 he was excommunicated by the pope, and later executed.
A month after his execution Machiavelli was appointed as secretary to the Second Chancery. His duties involved mire than merely keeping the records. He was called to handle the municipal problems and was frequently asked to participate in diplomatic negotiations with foreign powers. He held this position for 15 years. In 1512, the Medici family came back into power in Florence. With the return of the Medici?s Machiavelli lost his post in the Florentine government and accused of conspiring to overthrow the government, and consequently he was thrown in prison and tortured. After his imprisonment, and until his death, he wrote prolifically for 14 years. At this time he saw politics as survival of the fittest.
In the Prince, his most famous work, Machiavelli believes that rulers should be shrewd, calculating and manipulating, in order to get to a particular goal. The book however, is not true to his real political beliefs, b/c he wrote the book in an attempt to get a job, ironically, it wasn?t published until after his death. Machiavelli did have practical knowledge of statecraft. His assessments of the strengths and weakness of these leaders were significant part of his diplomatic dispatches to Florence, and he clearly relied upon them in composing the Prince.
The Prince has 4 sections in which Machiavelli organizes his ideas. The 1st part is organized around the theme of how different forms of states can be governed and maintained. States are classified as either principalities or republics. The republic is discussed in the Discourses. The topic at hand in the Prince are the principalities, and they are gained through the arms of others, or one?s own arms, or through fortunes, or by virtue. Fortune is described as good luck, and virtue as cleverness. With the second part of the book, Machiavelli turns to discussing the forms of states to the general methods to be used for founding and preserving them, and this requires knowledge of military affairs. The third section of the book, is a major part. Here, he presents the actual methods and procedures of a prince in dealing with his subjects and friends. The 4th section is the last three chapters of the Prince. These chapters analyze the situation in Italy during Machiavelis time.
Throughout the work there are several reoccurring themes, such as power, fortune and virtue, appearance, means and ends, glory and individualism. Machiavelli states, on the topic of power, that it is easier to get power than to maintain it, and he writes extensively on how to hold and sustain that power. A good leader needs to be in touch with the reality such as human nature and power. Machiavelli also introduces for concepts that a good leader should possess: virtue, ability, skill, and cleverness. Virtue is a quality that people have. Virtue is described as strength, courage, manly fortitude, and the idea that someone can do what is needed when it is needed in order to secure power. The idea is different than Plato and Aristotle who talked of reason and good citizens. A good leader can not be a good person b/c he will have to lie, kill, deceive, be cruel and destroy. Fortune is described not a human quality, it is something that humans have to deal with. Fortune is essentially faith. Fortune can be overcome by virtue if everything is done the right way.
Appearance is also emphasized. He emphasized appearance over reality. A ruler should appear stronger and more compassionate than he really is. There are 5 qualities that a prince should have some of and seem to have mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion. A ruler must be careful not to say anything outside of these 5 qualities. Machiavellie also talks about Means and Ends. If you succeed it will not matter what your means were b/c you have succeeded. A Machiavellian person is someone who is calculating, manipulating and dishonest. Machiavelli says that a ruler must be able to throw out those 5 qualities, and yet the ruler still needs to seem to be superhuman and invincible. A good leader will know when to be merciful and faithful, but also when not to be. Necessity rather than moral principle should guide a ruler. The ruler should not be opposed to immortality. If you kill to preserve the state, that is moral b/c other wise the state would fall and people would die and that would be immoral.
There are times when a leader has to be evil. Morality depends on the circumstances. There are two conditions to this however. One is that a smart ruler will not let on that he has this behavior. The leader should at least appear to care about the means and will have to show that the means are important. It is impossible to fool all the people so the leader will at least have to partake in the means at leader some of the time. The second condition is that there is a sense in which the means are important. You might do everything right and things may still go wrong b/c of fortune. But that is alright, and the ruler is still good b/c he did everything he could.
Machiavelli also mentions glory. A Prince has to find a way to use the people?s thirst for glory in order to help the state. If you can get people to want glory then it can produce results for the prince and people. The good of the state is linked to the good of the prince. The desire for glory is fundamental for humans in general, and glory comes from playing the game well.
Individualism is also talked about. This is the notion that people are primarily concerned with their own affairs. Machiavelli didn?t think people were naturally social or republican, he also believed that the state doesn?t determine what it is to be an individual.
In the Discourses, a much lager work than the Prince, Machiavelli delineates Rome?s rise from a small republic to a great empire and the factors that kept Romans patriotic, resolute, and as he often says corrupt. More generally, he again presents a statecraft, as he remarks in the introduction, for instituting republics, maintaining states, governing states, governing kingdoms, organizing the army and administering a war, dispensing justice to subjects and increasing the empire.
In some ways Florence was never a republic, b/c it could support it borders. A monarchy and republic are compatible, a tyranny however is opposed to these two. The idea of liberty was different for Machiavevllie, it is defined rather as the notion of self-government, and being an active member of the government. A republic is the most free form of government. The government is best when democracy, monarchy and republicanism are all intertwined and present. Machiavelli realized that the best situation for Florence at the time was to have a leader with absolute power. But he states that even in a monarchy, popular support is still needed by the ruler. A prince should be both loved and feared. However, if a prince has to choose between the two he should chose fear. Love is no essential, but fear is a response to external circumstances that can?t be controlled. However, although fear is an effecting way to rule, he admits that it is not the best way to gain popular support.
Machiavelli?s significance or at least originality can be clearly seen when contrasted with classical thinkers. Machiavelli?s picture of humans and society are drawn when humanity, confronts abnormal, emergencies, crises, and necessity. Selfishness, fear, conflict are now obvious, according to Machiavelli. These qualities predominate and are therefore the natural real features constituting humanity.