Niccol’o Machiavelli is known to be one of the best-known political philosophers of the Renaissance period. Machiavelli is also known for being a historian, writer, statesman, and diplomat. His most recognized work, The Prince, was written in 1513 and published in 1532. The book is a guide for obtaining and maintaining political power which emphasized using any tactics to force people to obey and overcome enemies.
He also wrote other political works such as History of Florence and Discourses Upon the First Ten Books of Livy. These works did not focus on such drastic measures of rule as in The Prince. “Although he shared with other humanists a profound pessimism about human nature, Machiavelli nevertheless argued that the social benefits of stability and security can be achieved even in the face of moral corruption.” Machiavelli focussed on the way things are, illustrating his own intensely practical convictions with frequent examples from the historical record. Machiavelli was born in 1469 in Florence, the son of a jurist. He was educated through private study. Niccol’o Machiavelli started out his career in politics in 1498 where he served as first secretary of the council for the republic of Florence.
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At this time the Medici family, who had ruled Florence since 1434, was taken over by a reform government. During fourteen years of service, Macha elli became a leading diplomat for the Republic of Florence. He was driven from his post in 1512 when, with the help of Spanish troops, the Medici family regained power, and the republic collapsed. Machiavelli was arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and removed from political life.
When he was finally released he devoted the next decade of this retirement to writing about history and political philosophy. During this time he wrote his greatest work, The Prince. The Prince was written with the intent to secure favor from the ruling Medici family. The claims of the book are very forward, intense, and provocative. The Prince focuses on the use of political power over a Renaissance principality. “Its over-all theme is that the successful prince must exhibit virt’u [variously translated as “strength,”skill,” or “prowess”] in both favorable and adverse circumstances.” Machiavelli places importance on the ability of the individual leader, which will in turn determine the success and vitality of the state.
Machiavelli finds that the “good” quality or quality of leadership is not like that of virtuous character like that of ethical philosophers. For Machiavelli private morality and political success were two separate entities. He focused on making a good leader, a good prince, politically, not morally. Machiavelli proposes and “by any means necessary” type attitude to wrd acquiring and maintain power. “It is this focus on practical success by any means, even at the expense of traditional moral values, that earned Machiavelli’s scheme a reputation for ruthlessness, deception, and cruelty.” From his experience of working with various forms of governments, republics, principalities, and monarchs, he noted, that people would prefer to manage their own affairs or be led under the rule of a prince. “Using virt’u to forestall what would otherwise be great difficulties.” , Machiavelli notes, would be a defining characteristic of a strong leader.
... in the way of an effectively governed principality. Machiavelli believes the ruling Prince should be the sole authority determining every aspect of ... expanding his political power. In other words, he felt the best and appropriate way to live was how the prince wanted us ... expanding his political power. In other words, he felt the best and appropriate way to live was how the prince wanted us ...
Leaders who would be able to take care of problems before they occur, is the best leader. “Whatever vitality a former republic may have, then, Machiavelli counselled that it either be destroyed or ruled carefully by a resident prince.” The idea that a prince who inherited their reign, is the safest leader. This is one who knows the kingdom and the powers. He is not working to rebuild a torn down, or reformed land. One of the most essential ways of maintaining order is by establishing and using military forces, which Machiavelli devoted great attention.
Different types of forces have various advantages and disadvantages, in which a prince can use to obtain and are vital for certain types of matters. He offered extensive advice on the acquisition, management, and employment of the army of the state. In The Prince he was content to distinguish types of forces which one might acquire, noting the advantages and disadvantages of each, and to emphasize that such matters are the most vital component of any prince’s interest. The Art of War written in 1520 and Discourses written in 1531 devotes more detailed attention to the aspect. However, a common idea is evident in his works, which is the importance of success and glory as the greatest acheive ment.
No matter what idealistic notions are adopted as principles of private morality, there is no guarantee that other people will follow them. This jeopardizes the leader poisiton in the world, and community. Therefore, the leader must make oneself be p received as an all knowing problem-solver, who can lead people fearlessly, intelligently, and spontaneously. Although private morality may rest on other factors-divine approval, personal character, or abstract duties, for example-in public life only the praise and blame of fellow human beings really counts.” A ruler must develop a postive reputation from his people.
“Although it is desirable to be both loved and feared by one’s subjects, it is difficult to achieve both, and of the two, Machiavelli declared, it is far safer for the ruler to be feared.” Thus, rulers must seem to be generous, appear to be compassionate, cultured, yet at the same time money conscious, stern, prudent, and vico us. When the prince needs to be dishonest, though, he must not appear that way. Good faith and integrity are clearly more praiseworthy then “craft and deceit.” However crafty and deceitful princes have historically defeated the faithful princes. A prince can compete by law or force, as a man or an animal. When competing as an animal, he should be “fox” and “lion,” making a show of strength, or cunningly escaping a difficult situation.
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He also argues that men who commit evil acts achieve political success because they commit those acts properly. He should cheat and break promises when they are against his interest, “as men are naturally bad” and will break their promises to him. In this section, “On Avoiding Being Despised and Hated” Machiavelli indicates that the prince must avoid doing things, which will cause him to be hated. Not confiscating property, and not appearing greedy can accomplish this. On the other hand, good works can sometimes cause hatred, if the people, nobles, or soldiery is corrupt. Thus, there are some instances where doing well is not advisable.
Since the modern state is too complex to be managed by any single human being, the effective ruler will naturally need to have advisors who assist in governance. Choosing the right people for these jobs and employing their services appropriately. A good ruler will invariably choose competent companions who offer honest advice. These people should be concerned for the state without regard for their private interests. With such qualities he emphasizes that these people deserve the rewards of honor, wealth, and power, while showing devotion to the leader. This will be an example that displays devotion to the leader..