Machiavelli 2 Essay, Research Paper
The works and views of Nicol Machiavelli (1469-1527) have been extensively analyzed since he first introduced them. Indeed, Machiavelli s influence on politics has been so great that he is accredited with having influenced major historical figures who were never even acquainted with his works. One of his works, The Prince, is probably second only to the Bible as being one of the most debated texts in world history.
Machiavelli is revered as having established the foundation for a scientific evaluation of politics and for having stimulated just about every political view available to the Western world. Conversely, The Prince has been strongly criticized for its apparently amoral political recommendations which have produced dire consequences when applied to the real world. However, it can be argued that The Prince, viewed in proper context, can also exact positive moral implication. Both of these findings are most properly presented in conjunction with one of Machiavelli s lesser known works, The Discourses, and in understanding the intentions of Machiavelli himself.
By reading only The Prince, one gets a sense that Machiavelli was a proponent of amoral action and absolute power. The Prince has certainly become known as a perfect eulogy to tyranny. In The Prince, Machiavelli analyzes reasons for the success and demise of a centralized political power and provides recommendations for political survival of that centralized power. The absolutist theories of The Prince have lead the political world to implement ideology such as the end justifies the means during times of crisis. However, in an attempt to justify their actions, political leaders have forgotten that Machiavelli s views were constructed from a degenerate 16th Century infrastructure. Machiavelli s analysis is reflective of the lack of governmental infrastructure which prevailed during his time, which included an absence of the notion of a unified Italy. In terms of the prevailing condition, the only way to retain control over a principality in constant danger of being stripped from its resources was to follow the guidance of The Prince.
The notion that Machiavelli as amoral advisor to the tyrants also seemingly contradicts the moralistic guidance he offered in The Discourses. The realization in reviewing The Discourses is that Machiavelli was truly a visionary, and a proponent of high moral sensibility. The Discourses contains an enlighten view of a republic system which would eventually lead to a unified Italy. It was directed towards teaching the youths of his time about the basic principles and history of a republic.
The vision which Machiavelli had regarding a Republic, or Nation State, present in all of his works, especially The Discourses, fueled his intense desire to participate in its development. Machiavelli was also conscious that he had discovered the fundamental laws of politics through a form of scientific analysis, and wished to share his findings with others. But Machiavelli was also a practical man. It was his practical sense which lead him to write The Prince in the first place. Machiavelli realized that in order to successfully promote a vision of the fundamental analysis of science, and to promote a virtuous society, through guidance contained in works such as The Discourses, he would need to secure a political position. This would avail him to properly conduct his analysis, and provide him with the proper sphere of influence. This meant securing employment from the de Medici government. Machiavelli knew that he would need to appeal to the de Medici s sense of absolute power. Therefore, he interrupted his work on The Discourses in 1513 and wrote The Prince to gain favor of the de Medici regime. After presenting The Prince to Lorenzo de Medici in 1515, and securing a governmental position, Machiavelli completed his more preferred work, The Discourses, in 1517.
It is easy to come to the conclusion that The Prince, as it was used to secure public office, is merely an attempt to impress those in power, and deviates from Macchiavelli s original virtuous purposes. What is overlooked is that The Prince, while it appealed to the corrupt governmental figures of Machiavelli s time, and was used to justify the most macabre of behavior, was a work intended for application only by those leaders virtuous enough to wield absolute power on the infrequent occasions which were warranted. With this realization, the true morality this particular writing can unfold, and its placement in terms of the advise offered in The Discourses can be fully understood.
The Prince is an amazing example of Machiavelli s lucid, logical and clear political thought. The thoughts were intended for application by those having the integrity which Machiavelli presumes a proper leader ought to have. The ultimate objective for a leader, which is to retain his power, necessitates that those who threaten him and his power must be dealt with using an amoral objectivity, one detached from virtue. Virtue and morality are therefore vital components of a leader, for only the most virtuous can carefully apply an objective handling of those opposed to him. Virtue in a leader is of utmost importance, to ensure that he not destroy the very assets which make his kingdom valuable and prosperous — the population and their creative process, essential ingredients for progress and power.
This makes the notion of morality and virtue a much less tangible feature of The Prince, and therefore easily overlooked. However, its presence is as important as the virtue required for building the ideal free state, as suggested in The Discourses. In this work, Machiavelli suggested that morality and virtue were best cultivated by free states, the ideal representation being the republican period of Rome.
The driving force of The Prince is that the aggregated power of whomever was in power would eventually lead to a unified Italy. It does not provide a psychological analysis of who should lead, but a strategy for the leader, regardless of his psychological fitness to lead. A 20th century example would be Germany. Germany was in a crisis and in need of a leader, however the psychological fitness of its leader (Adolf Hitler), coupled with his interpretation of The Prince, can lead to his own demise and genocide. This attitude is clearly depicted in the XVII chapter of The Prince.
The Prince does not discuss what is a nation state, the law or society. It is a scientific presentation of political thought where only the interests of The Prince and his final objective of retaining power are discussed, a practical guide for The Prince. Whether The Prince is moral or amoral is not important: E disputero come questi principati si possino governare e mantenere (Il Principe, cap. II.)
The Discourses, on the other hand, are critical of Italian politics and its rulers. They are intended to drive the reader to a cognitive experience of history: Nondimanco, nello ordinare le republiche, nel mantenere li stati, nel governare e regni nello ordinare la milizia e amministrare la guerra, nel iudicare e sudditi, nello accrescere l imperio, non si truova principe ne republica che agli esempli delli antiqui ricorra…ho giudicato necessario scrivere sopra tutti quelli libri di Tito Livio che dalla malignita de tempi non ci sono stati intercetti, quello che io, secondo la cognizione delle antique e moderne cose, iudichero essere necessario per maggiore intelligenzia d esso; accio che coloro leggeranno queste mie declarazioni, possino piu facilmente trarne quella utilita per la quale si debbe cercare la cognzione delle storie. (Discorsi, libro primo, Proemio).
The Discourses represent a scientific outline of Machiavelli s political science with the intent to educate young men to his theories. For when a man becomes a Prince, a president, head of the community or a military man, he could then realize the contents of The Prince, which are strictly related to the procedures needed to conquer, defend or retain power over a territory.
The Machiavelli of The Discourses is different from the one in The Prince.
In the dedication of The Discourses he writes: ….mi pare essere uscito fuora dell uso comune di coloro che scrivono, i quali sogliono sempre le loro opere a qualche principe indirizzare; e accecati dall ambizione e dall avarizia laudano quello di tutte le virtuose qualitadi, quando da ogni vituperevole parte dovrebbero biasimarlo. Onde io, per non incorrere in questo errore, ho eletti non quelli che sono principi, ma quelli che per le infinite buone parti loro meriterebbono di essere; non quelli che potrebbero di gradi, di onori e di ricchezze riempiermi, ma quelli che non potendo vorrebbono farlo. (Discorsi, A Zanobi Buondelmonti e Cosimo Rucellai Salute). Here we see, perhaps for the first time, a theory for free elections and a departure from nobility. An award system based on merit, rather than power and nepotism.
The Discourses are also Machiavelli s tool to teach and place proper historic value. The fundamental technique he uses is the example- an episode or a character which represent a model for a specific positive or negative behavior. Within this context it is proper for a historian to create a model, whenever he deems necessary. He may manipulate an event or character in order to achieve its pragmatic function: Intra l altre magnifiche cose che l nostro istorico fa dire e fare a Cammillo, per mostrare come debbe essere fatto un uomo eccellente, gli mette in bocca queste parole: Nec mihi dictatura animos fecit, nec exilium ademit [Tito Livio constructs the character Camillo in order to make of him an example to imitate] (Discorsi, libro terzo, cap XXXI).
The republican Rome of Livius is perfect and it can be imitated. Machiavelli s contemporary Italian political system embodies ultimate corruption. He points out the necessity that states should be swift in their decisions. This critique is shown here: Io ho notato questa parte piu volentieri, quanto io ho molte volte conosciuto tale ambiquita aver nociuto alle publiche azioni, con danno e con vergogna della republica nostra (Discorsi, libro secondo, cap. XV).
In general, The Discourses are aimed to educate the reader. The critiques of the Italian political system are placed into contrast with the ideal republic and its characters with references to the Florentine reality of the times. The Discourses incorporate a teaching methodology (historical), while The Prince offers guidance and advice.
The Discourses are very different from The Prince and do reflect a great sense of morality. These morals are needed in order to have an ideal government structure. To discern between good and bad, loyalty and corruption, freedom and bondage, etc.. It deals with the internal politics of Rome [first book], the external politics of Rome [second book], the meritorious citizens of Rome [third book].
The Prince is a great historical document. It can help us understand the general sociopolitical and psychological climate of 16th Century Europe. Its morality reflects the amount of conscience present during those times and not Machiavelli s.
During these times, political success was for the most part achieved with very little moral concern. Betrayal and murder were part of the game and justifiable to any great Prince. Example, Francesco Sforza who is here praised even though he betrayed la Republica Ambrosiana: Francesco [Sforza] per li debiti mezzi e con grande sua virtu , di privato divento duca di Milano; e quello che con mille affanni aveva conquistato, con poca fatica mantenne. (Il Principe, cap. VII)
We can also realize that this has been the basis of misunderstanding and misapplication of The Prince for the past 400 years. The Prince unfortunately became an inspiring source for genocide and tyrannical perversions, and the term Machiavellismo was coined to refer to supporters of absolute tyranical power.
Only recently, probably beginning in the early 1900 s, has a more objective analysis of Machiavelli been conducted. This objectivity and a closer analysis on the dynamics of his writings, along with an understanding of the context within which The Prince and The Discourses were written, has led many scholars to a more appreciative stance towards Machiavelli the man, while a bibliographic and philological analysis has made his works clearer. This process of humanization is greatly reflected in different biographies, in particular Vita di Nicol Machiavelli Fiorentino written by Giuseppe Prezzolini.
The greatest desire of Machiavelli was to have a unified Italy. United and strong, Italy would have benefited all of its citizens and claimed its rightful place in history, similar to what France accomplished under Luigi XII. The political evolution France had undergone was of great concern to the different principalities in Europe. The nationalistic sense of France threatened the individual landlords of small and large principalities, a sense which would eventually spread like an epidemic after the French Revolution. These nationalistic ideals were shared by Machiavelli and were mostly suppressed in The Prince, but fully revealed and discussed in The Discourses.
In the 14th Century, Italy had already undergone the most important phase of preparation for unification, in that a national language was being stimulated by Dante Alighieri s Divine Comedy. Even though this key element was well on its way, due to the complex interests of the principalities and the unstable sociopolitical climate, Machiavelli s dream did not take place during his time; it was only to be realized centuries later and perhaps has yet to be perfected.
Machiavelli s advice can be used and has been used by both just and unjust men. For all men in power, will at one time or another succumb to unwise decisions, which will further compromise the healthy and positive development of the Nation-State/Republic. His science, like all sciences, can be used to destroy civilization rather than to aid its growth in its painstaking development.
All in all, Machiavelli s morality is subjective to the reader. A reader may get a true sense of Machiavelli the man by reading all of his works, (Il Principe, Arte della guerra, Mandragola, Istorie Fiorentine, I Discorsi, and Del Modo di trattare I Popoli della Valdichiana Ribellata).