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Niccol Machiavellis The Prince - Book Report/Review Example

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Niccolo Machiavelli’s renowned 16th century political treatise The Prince or Il Principe, has been the cause of much interest and study over the last few hundred years. Its relevance in the modern day is accounted for by its very lucid and practical style of writing. …
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Download file to see previous pages Niccolo Machiavelli’s renowned 16th century political treatise The Prince or Il Principe, has been the cause of much interest and study over the last few hundred years. Its relevance in the modern day is accounted for by its very lucid and practical style of writing. The book serves as a political guide for rulers and has been reputed to be a favorite of dictators like Stalin. The influence of this slim book is so profound in fact that a term ‘Machiavellian’ has been coined from it and has passed into common use. The word usually denotes ruthless cunning, deceit, duplicity and reflects how the audience received this work of Machiavelli. However, the book is not just a simple book about lying and grabbing power, it is a much deeper philosophical insight into the dynamics of ruling and power and is the work of an observant and intelligent mind. The basic motive of The Prince appears to be to offer the reader a clear and simple guide to consolidating power. The intended reader is a ruler newly in power who must control and keep under domination a recently annexed state comprising a mixed demography. Noted Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci had also claimed that Machiavelli’s target audience was not the ostensible dedicatee Lorenzo de’ Medici but rather the common people. Gramsci claimed that since rulers already were aware of these strategies, Machiavelli’s aim in writing this book was to make them accessible to the public. Ian Johnston has argued that The Prince is written in an ironic vein and that to take it literally is an error on the modern reader’s part. Machiavelli begins by clearly defining his terms, what he means by principalities and republics, mixed principalities and so on. After the introductions, chapters 4 to 14 contain the most crucial part of this treatise with direct advice on annexing states, display of power, issues of insurrection, forging and maintaining alliances and so on. From chapter 15 to 23 the prince himself is dealt with. Machiavelli uses this section to comment on the characteristics of the ideal ruler. The book ends with a commentary on a contemporary political issue, namely that of the disintegration of Italy’s unity. Machiavelli also puts in an exhortation to Lorenzo de’ Medici to attempt to restore Italy’s glory. Machiavelli, born on the 3rd of May, 1469 wrote this book sometime around 1513. At the time he was not in favor with the Medici family, having been deprived of office – he was part of a diplomatic council in Florence – in 1512, and later tortured and exiled as fallout of the return of the Medici family that overthrew the Florentine republic in August 1512. Machiavelli lived in exile for several years before dying in 1527 when he was 58 years old. It was during his exile that most of his influential political work was written (Niccolo Machiavelli.”) The Prince brings up various complex issues that critics and readers have not always found easy to understand. Machiavelli’s philosophy is not easily reducible to one coherent system of belief. There are several questions one must ask to try and structure his often contradictory philosophical leanings. Question: Does Machiavelli believe in Free Will, for instance? Answer: It would appear so. Machiavelli was known for criticizing the contemporary Christian emphasis on the Divine plan. He argues that the ideal prince grasps Fortuna into his own hands and does not wait for good fortune to come to him. This self assertion may be another reason that Machiavelli has found an audience in modern society that values self-reliance a lot higher than was done during the Renaissance. Machiavelli cites the instances of Cesare Borgia and Francesco Sforza to explain his distinction of princes who rise by ability or by fortune. It is clear that he prefers the former: “[…] such stand simply upon the goodwill and the fortune of him who has elevated them - two most inconstant and unstable things.” ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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