The Prince By N.Machiavelli Essay, Research Paper
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli provides an analysis on how to govern and maintain power in a principality. In the first five chapters, he defines the three ways a monarch can acquire his dominion: either he inherits it, whether he creates a new one, or annexes territories, and further discusses how to govern them. Machiavelli states that hereditary principalities are less problematic than the mixed ones since newly acquired dominion tend to be more rebellious. The ruler must therefore colonize them and allow citizen to keep their laws or annihilate the governmental structure. In order to illustrate his point, he analyses the success of Alexander the Great conquest in Iran.
He then considers five possible ways to acquire power and become a prince (Ch. VI-XI). First, a private citizen can become a ruler due to his own qualities or virtues, like Cyrus or Romulus. A second way to become a ruler is through other?s power or favor. Hence a man like Cesare Borgia gained power due to his father support, but lost it when the latter died. For Machiavelli, getting power so quickly can be dangerous since the new monarch might lack knowledge on how to govern. In the third case, he uses the example of Agathocles of Sicily to illustrate power gained through murders. In his opinion, the conqueror must decide if his crimes will help him establish power and then commit them all at once so that he can later reestablish the confidence of his subjects. The fourth method is called civil principality, people basically choose the ruler, and this enables him to maintain power. The last possibility is to be elected pope and Machiavelli provides a brief overview of the religious order.
Next, he explores (Ch. XII- XIV) which arms are best to defend a principality and states that a ruler can chose to use ?his own, or mercenaries, or auxiliaries or a mixture of all three.?
From Chapter XV throughout Chapter XIX, Machiavelli proposes to describe how a prince should behave and tells the truth about surviving as a monarch, rather than recommending moral ideals. He describes the virtues commonly assimilated with a prince and concludes that some “virtues” will lead to a prince’s destruction, whereas some “vices” will enable him to survive. He describes the advantages of being generous or greedy, merciful or severe, deceitful or honest. Machiavelli concludes that a prince should avoid being hated and must exhibit five virtues in particular: mercy, honesty, humanness, uprightness, and religiousness.
Chapter XX states whether a prince should or not guard his dominion with a fortress and he uses the example of the Florentines. He further analyses (Ch. XXI-XXIV) how a monarch should chose his allies, ministers and protect himself from flatterers. In order to insure advisers? honesty a ruler has to make them dependent and avoid complete freedom of debate to maintain his authority. To illustrate these points he analyses how Italian monarchs lost their territories.
The last aspect Machiavelli focuses on is luck, or fortune, and he believes that ?we are successful when our ways are suited to time and circumstances, and unsuccessful when they are not? (85).
Finally, Machiavelli (Ch. XXVI) applies his analysis to Italy?s current situation and asks himself whether the country would be ready for a new monarch.
The most controversial aspects of The Prince reside in Machiavelli?s intentions in dedicating it to the Medicis. Indeed, they had ruled (on and off) during thirty years in the Florentine Republic, which was assaulted by the French ?barbarians.? The text provides a rather tangible and practical analysis of power, which is not necessarily cynical. The first assumption is that Machiavelli simply wanted to gain the ruling family?s favors, which intention then is merely straightforward. However, the irony comes from the fact that in dedicating his treatise to the Medicis he gave them a lesson on how to rule. This provocative explanation leads to further interpretations of the text, which then can be considered as the apology of egoistic power and tyranny, or as a proposal for individual success. In addition it can be seen as depicting the ruling class? morale as being beyond Morale and laws. Although The Prince was in its time read this way, Machiavelli does not directly support monarchs? immoral acts; he rather describes the consequences of fear on citizens. He furthermore states many times that the best way for a prince to maintain power is to have his people with him and not against him.
On the other hand, Machiavelli?s views on human nature are rather pessimistic and he overtly doubts that citizen can be trusted. Furthermore, he presents paradoxical views at times, when he alternatively supports honesty and deception. Machiavelli knew that past successful rulers appeared to be virtuous and he advised new princes to follow this strategy, since it was effective in manipulating peoples’ perceptions. Hence, for him, the end justifies the means as he states that ?doing some things that seems virtuous may result in one?s ruin, whereas doing other things that seem vicious may strengthen one?s position and cause one to flourish? (55).
If Machiavelli is still read today it is because he deals with the principles of human nature, which are unchanged. Rulers and tyrants, such as Hitler and Mussolini, used this treatise for centuries to conquer, understand the mechanism of power, and avoid being overthrown. Although most countries today have a democratic system, or no longer need fortress to protect themselves for instance, his remarks are still pertinent. The fact that a ruler is made by and for the people, for example, is still accurate. Machiavelli emphasizes the reciprocal relationship between a prince and his subjects, and does encourage him to be loved rather than feared. Indeed, public good might not be presented as the ultimate goal, but it is in the prince best interest to serve his community in order to get what he wants.
Thus, to a certain extent this concept applies to Public Relations since as practitioners we cannot dissociate our work from the public?s best interest. The emphasis on the interdependent relationship is one of the key elements of PR and Machiavelli sees it as a key to power. Hence, this perspective leads to the question: to what extent are PR?s goals and methods different from those of ancient monarchs? Indeed, considering that some public relation practitioners work in the power sphere as politicians? counselors, for example, and that they create an image to help them acquire power, shows their knowledge about its mechanisms.
The fact remains, that the definition of power evolved since The Prince was first published, but if we consider it from the perspective above, we can infer that PR is in itself a form of power, and therefore follows some of Machiavelli?s principles. More precisely, PR practitioners are behind the ones in power. They create and represent the image and the philosophy of a company, for instance. They have the choice in exerting their power to deceive the public or to be ethical. A PR campaign that built trust for instance, was the ?Tylenol? case as handled by Johnson & Johnson. Their approach to the crisis was directed towards the public?s best interest and as a result the company did not suffer from bad consequences on the long run. On the other hand, the Exxon-Valdez oil-spill case is an example of deceptive PR. Indeed, not much was done for the Alaskan community and the corporation ended up being perceived in a very negative way by the general public. These two crisis communication cases show that people and mechanisms of power have things in common with Machiavelli?s times, but society has become less tolerant of evil strategies. Rulers or corporations still have the means to deceive, but people are no longer subject to an authority considered divine. Therefore, the ones who govern are exposed to feedback and can hardly avoid the consequences of their acts.
A counter example, of course, would be the one of President Clinton as he voluntarily lied in court about his relation with Monica Lewinsky. He put on the face of virtue to deceive his citizens and in so doing manipulated the perception they had of him. In fact, Clinton?s communication specialists probably advised him to use this strategy, which follow the Machiavellian precepts. Although power might not exactly be the same anymore, principles on human natures are constant throughout time.