A Phil-for-an-ill Blog

April 30, 2014

The Toxic Legacy of Machiavelli’s The Prince

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil @ 5:26 pm
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The Prince

“…if a Prince succeeds in establishing and maintaining his authority, the means will always be judged honourable and be approved by every one.” (Chapter XVIII)

Founded on the above dubious moral axiom, which may be translated as, The end justifies the means (A), in the 16th century Niccolò Machiavelli formulates the classic dissertation on how to acquire and preserve raw political power, come hell or high water. By his own volition and on a proverbial silver salver, the tactical philosopher annex historian humbly offers to his highly esteemed ruler, the Prince(*), a self-guaranteed fail-safe recipe for robust rule–elegant in writing yet gloomy in meaning. Drawing from an extensive variety of modern and historical ruler-ship examples, combined with a deductive reasoning that is consistently lucid albeit infused with demeaning prejudices and stereotypes in its evaluation of human nature, Machiavelli distills a set of strategical rules and instructions for any ambitious ruler to abide by in order to secure and hold on to governing power.

In this analysis I focus on Machiavelli’s treatise in the function of being a literal instruction manual for power acquisition. Courtesy of the universal range of its applicability, it should be kept in mind that not just members of aristocracy could seek to benefit from this work but potentially anyone who has power aspirations as well as lack of scruples. In today’s upper regions of power The Prince may, for example, draw to its teachings: politicians and government officials, military commanders and intelligence officers, bankers and stock brokers, industrialists and corporate moguls but also members of religious orders and church leaders more interested in expanding temporal power than in improving intimacy with God. In the lower echelons of power, The Prince may attract organized crime figures, gang-bangers eager to ascend in prominence, cult leaders and other flavors of dilettante megalomaniacs.

While abstaining from delving into such academic questions as to whether The Prince was actually intended as a work of satire or whether or not Machiavelli’s ruler actually came to read it, I set out to explore the moral and psychological foundation and ramifications of this sinister work of instruction.

Note: For better readability, this article has been transferred to my other blog. It can be read in its entirety, here.

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