by, 07-13-2009 at 06:08 PM (1557 Views)
I just finished reading [I]The Prince[/I] for the first time in maybe ten years. It is amazing to me the difference in view that the time has made. I remember the first time reading it, I was horrified by some of the tactics and the dishonesty that Machiavelli encouraged. I believed then, and I still believe now, that Machiavelli held a belief that all men are inherently evil. While I use the term evil quite loosely, I find that he did not believe in the goodness or honesty of people. The only thing that really saddens me is that I find that I've become quite jaded, and have a similar mistrust towards people as a whole. Perhaps this is why the change in my views of the book.
A book that I once thought was ruthless and cruel in its guidance, I now find that I sat agreeing with much of it as I read. One theme that carried through my reading that I found most intriguing is the idea that it is better to commit an evil/cruel act against an individual or group of individuals if it is for the greater good than to not and allow many to suffer. I find it odd that I mostly agree with this ideology. Once, I strongly believed that evil is just that and under no circumstances can it be justified, but now I tend to view things more in the light of the ends justify the means (at least in matters of state).
In honesty, I can no longer find a single thing that I passionately disagree with Machiavelli on. Yes, it is much wiser to depend upon your own armies rather than foreign forces or mercenaries. Certainly, one must weaken or destroy those within a newly conquered country who would endanger their power structure if they wish to hold the territories they've conquered. If one must commit cruel acts to cement their station it is better to commit them all at a single time so that they may be forgotten or forgiven rather than slowly committing them over time resulting in a belief that you are cruel and sadistic rather than merely practical.
All in all, as a guide for conquering or establishing new territories, [I]The Prince[/I] is a fine guide. While some of Machiavelli's ideas seem to be harsh, I have to agree with his assessment of people and the best way to remain in power. There are no eventualities that I can think of that Machiavelli didn't account for, and I can't help but marvel at his genius.
One thing that does strike me as a little bizarre is that he he calls the Medici family to action at the end. This is the same family who had sent him into exile, and it was during this exile that [I]The Prince[/I] was written. So I can't help but wonder at his motivation. Was he secretly mocking the Medici family by publishing a "how to" guide to overthrowing them? Was he attempting to regain some of his former political favor by instructing them on how to run the state properly? It is a mystery to me what his motivation may have been in the writing, but I find that I now have a desire to find his [I]Discourses[/I] to read some of his other ideas. I am told that [I]Discourses[/I] is quite opposite this work, and I would like to see if perhaps his view of people isn't as harsh as one may think after only reading [I]The Prince[/I]
Anyway, I'm off for now.