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Machiavelli’s Political Theory

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Niccolo Machiavelli is the legendary Italian philosopher, politician and writer. He was a strong supporter of the state power and permitted any means to strengthen this power. Machiavelli expressed his position in a well-known work titled “The Prince”, published in 1532. The book originally was called “De Principatibus” because it described the qualities of character, methods and skills of government, which are necessary for ideal prince. However, later the writer changed the title. The practical approach is combined with the theoretical one that explains changes and phenomena of state’s life. In his work, which has caused a lot of disputes, Niccolo Machiavelli does not agree with the people who offered the example of ideal and touching monarch. This prince should not have only excellent good qualities. The author represents him as a human full of realistic character, which had real rulers. According to Machiavelli, “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are” (134). The philosopher gives an argumentative and accurate description of the new emperor in real life and what he should be. He made it referring to real events in the world history. Machiavelli thoroughly and carefully builds a visible, vibrant and attractive image of the new prince. The writer in his work examines the categories and concepts of generosity and frugality, cruelty and mercy, love and hate. Every thought, example and proof is based on the reality and historical facts.

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Machiavelli’s purpose is to comprehend human history more deeply and fully. He wanted to represent history as implementation and realization of the freedom formation and progress. The main Machiavelli’s goal is to formulate rules of political behavior based on the experience of his era, as well as of ancient times.

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A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent, so that if he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it. (Machiavelli 203)

Machiavelli sees the experience as something alive and specific. The author of “The Prince” states that political life is, above all, people, nations and rulers and their relationships with the power. Machiavelli believed that each person at all times is vested with the same passion, desire and will. Only man is a constant, which can display the general laws of political life, common to all times and places. According to Machiavelli, “Studying the events of our days and times gone by, we find that all countries and all nations have the same desire” (177). However, at all times the same disaster and confusion are repeated because historical reasons are neglected. At first glance, “The Prince” is a unique guide to running the state, where the author gives examples of the most frequently committed errors and their possible consequences; considers the best way to achieve the desired goal. This book is interesting from the point of view of the successful combination of rich personal experience with a deep analysis that reflects the theme of the ancient sources. Machiavelli is aware that there is a huge difference between what is there in life, and what it should be. The author considers what the price should be to lead people to the basis of the new state. Machiavelli concludes, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things” (245). Utopian element of Machiavelli’s political ideology can be considered as the fact that monarch was purely theoretical abstraction, a symbol of the leader. He was the ideal condottiere, but not politically real. Machiavelli states that the monarchy is the only possible rational polity. Nevertheless, freedom is the most important social value to the philosopher. It is also important for the whole country, since the state should be able to maintain its independence. However, these two concepts – freedom and absolute monarchy – are rather bad combination. The author notes, “The memory of their former freedom will not let them rest; so that the safest course is either to destroy them, or to go and live in them” (112). This is another contradiction between ideals and reality.

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“The Prince” is a treatise about the role, place and meaning of the head of the state. Prince, nobility, and people are the three main components of political power. They have different rules and play their roles according to them in the political arena. All of them are active participants in the process of political life. They show passion, desire, and will, aimed primarily at increasing their roles in the country. Niccolo Machiavelli’s political theory is a representative of the basic trend of European political development, which showed formation of a single state, based on the nationality. These states were often created by the powerful hand of a single sovereign with the help of cunning and strength. However, Machiavelli’s political ideals could not coexist with the political reality: the prince was eager to strengthen his power over his subjects despite their freedom and will. According to Machiavelli, relationship between political reality and political ideals is chimerical because of immutability of the human nature. There is always a stronger person who will be a winner in this struggle. According to Machiavelli, “A prince must not have any other object nor any other thought… but war, its institutions, and its discipline; because that is the only art befitting one who commands” (234). Machiavelli expressed utopian ideas, which could not exist in reality. Nevertheless, the state, described by Italian philosopher, is anti-utopian; all the facts, examples and people are representatives of the history. The image of the true prince is based on the interaction of three principles: the monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic.

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