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Machiavelli’s Claim to Be Either Feared or Loved Essay

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Updated: Nov 14th, 2018

Niccolo Machiavelli, a reputable Italian philosopher, posed a question in his book the Prince, “Is it better for the Prince to be feared or loved?” Through this question, Machiavelli attempts to offer pragmatic and practical advices on the means of acquiring and sustaining power.

In this regard, he discussed multiple merits and demerits of each trait of leadership methods that allow a prince to gain leadership control. Mostly, during his era, the prince’s main role in power was to acquire new states, tackle internal uprising, form alliances, and maintain a strong military base.

Classically, Machiavelli observed and presented the ideal characters that would form the good qualities of a prince in order to prevent inappropriate governance. Although some personal virtues prescription may have been depriving to the state, they were indispensable for its efficient operation (Clester 2011, p. 74). Nevertheless, the attainment of the good will of one’s followers is essential in the maintenance of power for a prince or leader.

In describing a leader’s demonstration of his personal skills and knowledge for the attainment of the state’s good, Machiavelli focuses the importance of statesmanship. In this regard, he elaborates how the availability of good laws indicates the existence of a strong military. Evidently, he indicates that a state’s growth depends entirely on the successful wars that form the foundation of every state. Therefore, applying the fear or loved concept demonstrates how one will acquire new territories and handle domestic insurrections.

In such cases, effective leadership entailed the use of power in the formulation of military strategies that ensured successful warfare. Some of the military strategies that were critical included international mediation, domestic politics, tactical strategy, geographical mastery, and historical analysis of a leader (Lee 2002, p. 144).

Therefore, it was necessary for a leader to choose the appropriate design of leadership as either to be feared or loved. Considering that the actual expectations of one’s followers are to realize a leader’s strategies, a leader had to inculcate the appropriate methodologies in handling state strategies.

It was significantly important for a leader to maintain goodwill and reduce hatred from his followers while in power. In this regard, it was better for him to be loved than be feared. This was mainly due to the belief that hatred caused mistrust and an eventual prince’s downfall.

Machiavelli advocated for the use of cruelty and dictatorship as long it never interfered with the long-run good will of a prince’s people. Additionally, such leadership designs guaranteed respect from the price’s subjects and the best defense against domestic uprisings and foreign aggressions.

To reduce instances of hatred, a prince had to avoid taking extreme measures such as the confiscation of personal property or interference with traditional institutions as he executed his duties (Machiavelli 1979, p. 124). Through this approach to leadership, a prince will be confident that his haters cannot rise against him. In this regard, Machiavelli indicates how people’s goodwill is essential in sustaining a prince in power.

Machiavelli defines the appropriate virtues that leaders should exhibit. The most essential virtues that ensured the sustenance of power included generosity, compassion, and devoutness. In this regard, a prince was supposed to portray exemplary virtues to his people and expect reciprocation from them.

Despite the fact that the pursuit of virtues could be depriving concerning the maintenance of principality, a prince needed to evaluate the appropriate virtues for each context. For instance, during the periods of domestic insurrection and foreign aggression, a leader could resort to cruelty or dishonest for the benefit of the state (Morris 1999, p. 102).

These characters were attributed to the effective realization of harmony and respect both internally and externally. In this regard, the pursuance of a virtue should be based on the effects it has on the state other than its intrinsic moral values. Generally, the leaders who portrayed this skill retained power and maintained support from their subjects. Nevertheless, such leaders could easily win the interest of the subjects and manipulate them for their own personal gains.

Considering the unstable human nature, Machiavelli demonstrated the importance of a leader to adopt the appropriate leadership design to help him deal with the varied human nature. In this regard, people acted in any situation for their own benefit.

The fact that during prosperous moments, people are trustworthy and respectful, but on adversity, they turn selfish and deceitful exemplifies this observation. Repeatedly, people appreciate traits like generosity, courage, and piety in other individuals, but they rarely portray such virtues themselves.

In this regard, Machiavelli advocates for leaders to be knowledgeable on the human nature and demonstrate the ideal virtue for any context (Machiavelli 2003, p. 72). Additionally, conflicts between the statesmanship and virtuousness could cause adversity to the state. This means that people will hate a prince if he fails the state rather than when he lacks virtues. Thus, it is wise for a prince to understand that duty should not conflict with self-sacrifice.

For a feared leader, the probability maintaining power is higher compared the leader who adopts the aspect of love. In this regard, a leader would instill fear and loyalty from his people. For the fear of their leader’s wrath, people will attempt to work according to the laws outline by the state.

Considering that the people’s satisfaction emanates from guaranteed basic needs and security, a leader would retain power for a considerable time. In the event of a domestic insurrection, a feared leader would threaten the concerned individuals. This would help to mitigate the potential harm of such individuals to the state.

At the same time, when foreign aggressions emerge, a feared leader would compel his military men to face their adversaries with courage and purposefulness (Bireley 1990, p. 124). As a result, the people of the state would be assured of security and foreign enemies would refrain from any intents of war.

On the other perspective, a leader who adores being loved rather than feared would gain support from his people. This implies that the leader would have to exhibit fundamental virtues that his followers appreciate. Some of these values include courage, generosity, piety, and being considerate.

Machiavelli asserts that when a prince becomes extremely generous and loyal to his people, greed, and deceit emerges. From such a notion, jealously and competition develop among the people. The outcomes of this form of leadership will likely lead to dire ramifications for the ruling prince. In this regard, to suppress domestic insurrection, it would require considerable efforts in negotiating with people (Viroli 1998, p. 128).

Naturally, although the people may have a liking for a virtuous leader during the times of prosperity, they will be defiant to such a leader in adversity. As a result, leaders should be considerate concerning the virtues they exhibit to avoid ruining their states because of the failure to adhere to their duties.

Critically analyzing the two types of leadership designs portray by Machiavelli, to be feared is considerably better than to be loved. This is because of the guaranteed safety and progress of a state during the tenure of a feared leader. The inducement of fear through cruelty and dictatorship will earn a leader unity and loyalty among his people.

When other people fear a person, they are inclined not to cross boundaries his boundaries because of the anticipated repercussions. At the same time, foreigners who became jealous and hateful towards a state would restrain themselves from taking any action against such a state considering the high probability of a lethal response from the state’s leader. As a result, the effective maintenance of security and adherence to the needs of the state by the people is realized.

Overtime, the Machiavelli’s philosophical thoughts concerning leadership have been considerably critical in the analysis of state politics. For most of the states, they apply the two forms of leadership designs on different scales. In countries such as the United States, the feared form of leadership is the most ideal when dealing with other countries.

In this regard, the political influence concerning the resources and military prowess exhibited by the United States elicits fear from other countries. Notably, while focusing on the creation of good relationships with other countries, the feared leader design is employed to achieve the objective.

In the domestic affairs of a country, leaders demonstrate good virtues to elicit the ethical nature of ideal leadership. These virtues create interest and mentorship among the citizens in embracing the leaders’ efforts in their contributions towards the country (Morris 1999, p. 245).

Most countries have portrayed identical leadership characteristics to the United States. As a result, leaders have been able to obtain respect and loyalty from their subjects. In this regard, the laws and the leader play a significant role in achieving the earlier form of leadership suggested by Machiavelli, which elicits fear from the subjects.

Following Machiavelli’s suggestion, most states consider a leadership design that portrays the loved prince leadership design as being vulnerable to all forms of man’s wicked nature. In this regard, there is the depiction of human beings as being self-centered from the Machiavelli’s claim that men are ungrateful, deceitful, and selfish. In this regard, the significance of being feared outweighs the urge to be loved since man’s affection can easily be won or lost through proper measures (Viroli 1998, p. 56).

Evidently, Machiavelli’s suggestions have had considerable impacts in the maintenance of security and winning man’s loyalty in each state. As a result, most leaders have accepted some of his ideologies and identified them as effective on each particular scenario. For the case of prosperity, being loved by both the state’s people and foreigners is an ideal form of leadership to portray.

At the same time, during adversity to a state, the adoption of the being feared form of leadership presents the best outcome. Nevertheless, Machiavelli’s thoughts have received numerous criticisms of their nature being tyrannical. This is because Machiavelli mainly illustrated the need for leaders to adopt cruelty in enforcing their duties. Such form of leadership is considered unethical and undesirable to achieve favorable leadership.


Bireley, R. (1990). The Counter-Reformation prince: anti-Machiavellianism or Catholicstatecraft in early modern Europe. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill.

Clester, S. (2011). Machiavelli: the prince. Writers of the Round Table: Mundelein, IL.

Lee, R., & Walsh, J. (2002). The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli. Spark Pub: New York.

Machiavelli, N., Bondanella, P. E., & Musa, M. (1979). The portable Machiavelli. Penguin Books: Hammondsworth, Eng.

Machiavelli, N., & Rebhorn, W. A. (2003). The prince and other writings. Barnes & Noble Classics: New York.

Morris, D. (1999). The new prince: Machiavelli updated for the twenty-first century. Renaissance Books: Los Angeles.

Viroli, M. (1998). Machiavelli. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

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