What qualities are important for a successful monarch in order to contribute to the prosperity of the state as the powerful monarchy and gain the support of the citizens? The answer to this question was proposed by many thinkers and philosophers, but the most provocative vision of the issue was presented in the work The Prince which was written by Niccolo Machiavelli and firstly published in 1532.
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In spite of the fact the problem of the autocratic regimes was actively discussed by a lot of historians with accentuating their advantages and disadvantages for the public and with basing on the question of the human nature, Machiavelli’s opinion on the issue is still considered as controversial because of the historian’s focus on people’s vices rather than their virtues as the ruling forces of their characters and behaviors.
The work can be discussed as the collection of thoughts on the problem of governing the state and the phenomenon of monarchy with references to the question of power and military success. It is also a collection of practical pieces of advice on the principles of the effective rule for the monarch Lorenzo de Medici in Italy.
Although Machiavelli’s view of human nature depends on his general vision of the balance between the people’s virtues and vices, the historian emphasizes the difference between the monarch and the citizens and pays attention to the fact that the monarch’s behavior is based only on the necessity of gaining the power which should be preserved by any means.
In his work, Niccolo Machiavelli states that the balance of virtues and vices in the people’s behavior according to the aspects of their human nature depends on the peculiarities of their social and personal life.
From this point, people are virtuous until the life round them can satisfy their expectations, and their vices become obvious when challengeable events happen. Accentuating the imperfectness of the ordinary people’s actions and behavior, Machiavelli indicates that the Prince, or a monarch, can be as immoral as it is necessary for his successful achieving the goal and preserving the power.
However, it is significant not to provoke the public’s hatred which can be destructive for the monarch’s power. According to Machiavelli, the human moral ambiguity is also emphasized by his vision of the person’s changeability. Thus, “the nature of the people is variable” (Machiavelli 27). That is why it is not effective to rely on the persons’ virtues or vices.
Nevertheless, the concept of virtue is important for Machiavelli’s understanding of the powerful monarch’s nature. It is significant to note that the historian’s vision of the Prince’s vices and virtues predominantly depends on the results of his actions for the state. If the Prince acts wrongly from the moral point, but this action provides benefits for the state, such behavior cannot be perceived and assessed as immoral, especially in the situation when this action “looks like virtue” (Machiavelli 81).
Citizens traditionally need the peace and protection that is why if the Prince’s actions are even immoral and injustice, but result in the public’s feeling of security and satisfaction, it is possible to speak about the monarch’s virtues. Thus, Machiavelli’s work is not ‘evil’, but it represents a rather provocative vision of the human nature in connection with the problem of virtues and vices. In the state, virtues are meaningful till they help the monarch to address his own interests and meet the citizens’ expectations.
Nevertheless, it is the monarch’s right to choose his own way to build the powerful state even with references to the immoral actions because his main goal is “to maintain himself in his state” (Machiavelli 2). Moreover, the action can be considered as good when it is perceived as a good one and contributes to the public’s believing in their monarch’s power.
To be the powerful and successful ruler who can follow the right balance between the necessary virtues and vices, good and bad actions, gain the goodwill of the citizens, and provide the effective military campaigns, it is important to have the strong will. Moreover, the will should be free.
Machiavelli discusses the notion of ‘free will’ in its relation to the other significant aspect which is the fortune. Thus, the free will is the human choice when the fortune as a chance is given by God. Focusing on the personal characteristics of the Prince as a real monarch, Machiavelli discusses the peculiarities of his behavior which can influence his prosperity as a ruler. These considerations are associated with the aspect of the free will. However, it is also necessary to concentrate on the fortune.
According to Machiavelli, “not to extinguish our free will, I hold it to be true that Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions, but that she still leaves us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less (Machiavelli 132). That is why there is the balance between the individual control over the events and the impact of circumstances as the power of the fortune.
Machiavelli accentuates the idea that the monarch’s main task is to provide the prosperity of the state in general, and with basing on the military factor in particular. Arms and the force are the best ways to control the territories.
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Nevertheless, can such intentions and actions be considered as advantageous for the citizens and their welfare? In his previous works, Machiavelli discussed the role of the governor and the politics with references to promoting the good for the public. In The Prince, the historian concentrates on the good for the state as the political phenomenon.
Thus, it is important to provide the effective control and regulation within the principality, guarantee the military impact on enemies, and impose the force on the citizens in order to be powerful. The monarch’s ambitions are in the field of the military successes and the strong control. However, when the monarch is too self-interested and evokes the public’s hatred he is at risk to experience the citizens’ disobedience which effects can be dangerous for him and for the state.
Machiavelli tries to find the ‘golden mean’ between the public’s possible hatred and the monarch’s significant impact. From this point, Machiavelli’s ideas on the citizens’ hatred and love are rather controversial because he states that “it is much safer to be feared than loved” (Machiavelli 87). To control the affairs within the state, the Prince should possess not only the power but also the respect of the citizens.
However, when it is impossible for the monarch to gain the public’s respect he can stimulate the citizens’ fear of his power. In this case, the author also pays attention to the aspect of hatred and indicates that “a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated” (Machiavelli 88). The monarch cannot promote any good for the public when he feels the citizens’ hatred.
However, he also can be hated by his people because of his cruel actions and not promoting the good. That is why it is more effective to be feared because, according to Machiavelli, the public’s fear can be considered as a kind of respect, and it is necessary to impose the power and authority on the citizens before they can have the opportunity to oppose to the monarch.
Thus, the public’s goodwill which is based on the feeling of love or fear can contribute to strengthening the position of the state and its stability. If the principles of morality cannot be considered as significant factors for the government’s development, the concepts of the state’s power and stability are the main qualities according to which it is possible to discuss the state’s progress.
That is why the Prince should act to preserve the stability and strengthen the power. It is a long process during which the monarch can act according to his interests and the interests of the state, but not according to the principles of morality. The strong military base is important for the state’s power and stability as well as strict laws and rules for the citizens.
Machiavelli states that it is impossible to rely on the fortune, but only on the strength and power. The author indicates that “nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as fame or power not founded on its own strength. And one’s own forces are those which are composed either of subjects, citizens, or dependants; all others are mercenaries or auxiliaries” (Machiavelli 74).
Machiavelli makes accents on the fact that the military successes of the monarch in securing the state contribute to increasing his prestige among the public and the leaders of the other principalities and make the citizens support their monarch. Thus, stability which is won by any means is important for emphasizing the monarch’s power, and the power provides the definite level of stability in the principality. That is why these notions are interdependent.
The stability of the state can be challenged by the development of the class conflicts between the ordinary people, aristocracy, and the monarch as the main authority. Thus, the monarch should be able to decrease these conflicts in order to guarantee the peaceful progress of the state.
Nevertheless, Machiavelli does not concentrate on the class conflict as the real threat for the Prince, but only refers to the possible development of these conflicts as the reasons for the further citizens’ dissatisfaction and hatred directed to the aristocracy and the monarch of the principality. To overcome the class conflicts, the Prince should treat his people in a specific way in order to be loved or feared by them.
The monarch can not act virtuously, but only appear to perform virtuously in relation to the citizens’ interests in order to address his own interests and intentions and preserve the power. According to Machiavelli, military conflicts are more influential for breaking the successful development of the state than class conflicts which can be easily diminished with the help of the monarch’s cunning (Machiavelli).
Machiavelli accentuates the fact that it is possible for the Italian monarchs to overcome the challenges of the class conflicts, to preserve the stability and power of the state with references to the history of the territories and to the experience of the previous monarchs.
Moreover, providing the definite pieces of advice for Lorenzo de Medici, the author emphasizes the way which should be followed by the Prince in order to gain the eminence and success. Describing the peculiarities of the effective rule, the historian pays attention to the actions of the prominent monarchs of the Italian principalities and provides the certain historical context for his considerations.
Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the previous rulers, Machiavelli concludes that today Italy can rely only on the effective authority of Lorenzo de Medici who should follow only his interests as a ruler of the state in order to stay powerful and influential in the context of the constant military conflicts with the neighboring principalities.
Thus, in the 16th century the territory of Italy was divided into several principalities which struggled with each other. That is why the historical context influenced the idea of Machiavelli’s work in which he tries to teach the Prince how to become powerful and successful in this situation with the help of weakening the strong opponents and submitting the weak ones.
Machiavelli’s The Prince is presented as the discussion of the effective rules on how to maintain the power. The book is developed as the collection of the pieces of advice for Lorenzo de Medici as the Prince which are given in a rather conversational tone with using the first and second person, and this tone is especially accentuated in the dedication of the work.
However, the audience of the book can be quite broad, including the politicians and nobles. To make his argument more persuasive, Machiavelli uses the examples from the history of Italy and the other countries with paying much attention to the figures of the ancient rulers in order to support his ideas and visions the monarch’s power which can be based on immoral principles.
Moreover, Machiavelli organizes his work in sections in which the peculiarities of principalities and the monarch’s behavior are discussed. They are divided with the help of informative headings which reflect the topic of the chapters. From this point, in spite of its controversial character, the work can be discussed as rather persuasive with references to a lot of historical illustrations and discussions.
Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince became the real sensation of his time, and this work still remains one of the most discussed visions of the human nature and the character of the authority. Today, monarchies change its meaning as the primary form of government. However, those principles which are described by Machiavelli as effective in order to gain and maintain the power by the leader can be considered as relevant to the peculiarities of the contemporary society.
The modern society is not ideal even with depending on the democratic principles, and those virtues which are proclaimed by the leaders are often only the part of the appearance, but not the reflection of the real situation. In spite of the fact the contemporary society is inclined to struggle against the violence of the authority, the examples of the behavior depicted in The Prince can be observed today with references to some regimes.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. USA: Simon & Brown, 2011. Print.