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The Prince and Chinese Maze Murders - Essay Example

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The Prince and The Chinese Maze Murders. The two societies depicted in Machiavelli’s The Prince and Van Gulik’s The Chinese Maze Murders are similar because of the relative freedom that people in authority had to exercise power and even violence against ordinary citizens…
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The Prince and Chinese Maze Murders
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Download file to see previous pages In those days Italy was a world leader in arts and culture, and new ideas were being produced all the time. The setting of the Maze Murders, on the other hand, is a provincial backwater, where a fatalistic view of the world prevails, and few people aspire to learning. Italy is a forward-looking state, while China rests on an ancient tradition and seems more backward looking than innovative. Because of this cultural difference, the Italian society of Machiavelli is by far the preferable one to live in. Machiavelli describes a state where the ruler is expected to keep people in check through his superior wealth, and particularly through his power to threaten and carry out military action against anyone who rises up against the establishment. He seems to suggest that it is best when a great deal of power is concentrated in this one person, and advises the prince that “flatterers must be shunned” (Machiavelli 75) and that it is not good to listen to the advice of lots of different people. This creates a despotic leader, and so long as the leader’s character is good, things can go well in the state, but as soon as a leader grows arrogant or resentful, there can be very extreme consequences for the whole state. He does encourage the ruler to be generous, to keep his word, and to be merciful, within reason, but at the same time he advises the ruler that it is better to be feared than to be loved. The philosophy behind Machiavelli’s kind of state is a kind of cult of the personality, making the ruler the best possible individual and worthy of the loyalty of his people. The existence of the book implies at the same time that there will be at least one trusted advisor who will advise on strategy and act as source of information for the ruler. Ambition is seen as a great quality, and the prince is encouraged to master the art of war, and to learn how to judge the strengths and weaknesses of potential enemies, in order to maintain a stable and peaceful realm. Machiavelli urges the prince to remain watchful saying that a wise prince “must never take things easy in times of peace” (Van Gulik 49) suggesting that mental and physical training are the way for him to keep a step ahead of any potential enemies. In a way the cultivation of warlike qualities is presented as a kind of protective aura, much as nowadays the existence of nuclear weapons prevents full scale international war. In Van Gulik’s vast landscape of China, on the other hand, authority seems far more diffuse and arbitrary. The role of the magistrate is supposed to be an official duty carried out with great seriousness, and there is supposed to be an official tribunal building and staff in every city to ensure that law and order are maintained. It is evident from the situation in Lan-fang that the previous magistrate has been less than efficient before the new magistrate Dee arrives. Dee even stamps his foot in annoyance and shouts “Where are the guards, where are the constables? Where are the scribes, where are the clerks, where is everybody in this accursed tribunal” (Van Gulik 19). In the postscript to the novel, Van Gulik explains the temporary nature of the magistrate appointment, and he hints at the reason for this when he explains that the lieutenants are not allowed to investigate crimes because of their tendency to be influenced by private considerations, and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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