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29. Machiavelli - The Proponent of Modern Day Statecraft and Politics

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Its basically an attempt to explain the acquistion and retention of political power and how it should be excercised. This below Essay throws some light on interiors and intricates of these endeavours to political power and unwritten laws that govern The Statecraft.

The Prince , a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist, Niccolò Machiavelli , and published in 1513 originally written in Italian. It gives us sketch Political scenario and Battles for Power in the 15th Century in mostly Western Europe.

The Prince is set against the backdrop of the Italian Renaissance, a period of intense activity in art, science, and literature.

1) How to gain the Political Power and excercising it

Princes who rise to power through their own skill and resources (their "virtue") rather than luck tend to have a hard time rising to the top, but once they reach the top they are very secure in their position. This is because they effectively crush their opponents and earn great respect from everyone else. Because they are strong and more self-sufficient, they have to make fewer compromises with their allies.

Machiavelli writes that reforming an existing order is one of the most dangerous and difficult things a prince can do. Part of the reason is that people are naturally resistant to change and reform. Those who benefited from the old order will resist change very fiercely. By contrast, those who can benefit from the new order will be less fierce in their support, because the new order is unfamiliar and they are not certain it will live up to its promises. Moreover, it is impossible for the prince to satisfy everybody's expectations. Inevitably, he will disappoint some of his followers.

Therefore, a prince must have the means to force his supporters to keep supporting him even when they start having second thoughts, otherwise he will lose his power. Only armed prophets, like Moses, succeed in bringing lasting change. Machiavelli claims that Moses killed uncountable numbers of his own people in order to enforce his will.

Machiavelli's ideas on how to accrue honour and power as a leader had a profound impact on political leaders throughout the modern west, helped by the new technology of the printing press.

2) How to retain Power ?

Machiavelli advises that a prince should carefully calculate all the wicked deeds he needs to do to secure his power, and then execute them all in one stroke. In this way, his subjects will slowly forget his cruel deeds and the prince can better align himself with his subjects. Princes who fail to do this, who hesitate in their ruthlessness, will have to "keep a knife by his side" and protect himself at all costs, as he can never trust himself amongst his subjects

3) If You come to Power with the supports from Powerful, what will happens...??

When a prince comes to power through luck or the blessings of powerful figures within the regime, he typically has an easy time gaining power but a hard time keeping it thereafter, because his power is dependent on his benefactors' goodwill.

He does not command the loyalty of the armies and officials that maintain his authority, and these can be withdrawn from him at a whim. Having risen the easy way, it is not even certain such a prince has the skill and strength to stand on his own feet.

4) The Ideal Prince of Machiavelli - Cesare Borgia

Through cunning political maneuvers, he managed to secure his power base. Cesare was made commander of the papal armies by his father, Pope Alexander VI, but was also heavily dependent on mercenary armies loyal to the Orsini brothers and the support of the French king. Borgia won over the allegiance of the Orsini brothers' followers with better pay and prestigious government posts. To pacify the Romagna, he sent in his henchman, Remirro de Orco, to commit acts of violence. When Remirro started to become hated for his actions, Borgia responded by ordering him to be "cut in two" to show the people that the cruelty was not from him, although it was.

When some of his mercenary captains started to plot against him, he had them captured and executed. When it looked as though the king of France would abandon him, Borgia sought new alliances.

5) Getting the Power through Cruel Means.

Conquests by "criminal virtue" are ones in which the new prince secures his power through cruel, immoral deeds, such as the elimination of political rivals.

Machiavelli's offers two rulers to imitate, Agathocles of Syracuse, and Oliverotto Euffreducci. After Agathocles became Praetor of Syracuse, he called a meeting of the city's elite. At his signal, his soldiers killed all the senators and the wealthiest citizens, completely destroying the old oligarchy. He declared himself ruler with no opposition. So secure was his power that he could afford to absent himself to go off on military campaigns in Africa.

Machiavelli then states that the behavior of Agathocles is not simply virtue, as he says, "Yet one cannot call it virtue to kill one's citizens, betray one's friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; these modes can enable one to acquire empire, but not glory. [...] Nonetheless, his savage cruelty and inhumanity, together with his infinite crimes, do not permit him to be celebrated among the most excellent men. Thus, one cannot attribute to fortune or virtue what he achieved without either."

Machiavelli then goes to his next example, Oliverotto de Fermo, an Italian condottiero who recently came to power by killing all his enemies, including his uncle Giovanni Fogliani, at a banquet. After he laid siege to the governing council and terrified the citizenry, he had then set up a government with himself as absolute ruler. However, in an ironic twist, Oliverotto was killed the same way his opponents were, as Cesare Borgia had him strangled after he invited Oliverotto and Vitellozzo Vitelli to a friendly setting.

6) Becoming a prince by the selection of one's fellow citizens or Democratic Means .

A "civil principality" is one in which a citizen comes to power "not through crime or other intolerable violence", but by the support of his fellow citizens. This, he says, does not require extreme virtue or fortune, only "fortunate astuteness".

Machiavelli makes an important distinction between two groups that are present in every city, and have very different appetites driving them: the "great" and the "people". The "great" wish to oppress and rule the "people", while the "people" wish not to be ruled or oppressed.

So, They assign a leader who can be popular to the people while the great benefit, or a strong authority defending the people against the great.

Machiavelli goes on to say that a prince who obtains power through the support of the nobles has a harder time staying in power than someone who is chosen by the common people; since the former finds himself surrounded by people who consider themselves his equals. He has to resort to malevolent measures to satisfy the nobles.

Also a prince cannot afford to keep the common people hostile as they are larger in number while the nobles smaller. Therefore the great should be made and unmade every day.

How to win over people depends on circumstances. Machiavelli advises:

  • Do not get frightened in adversity.

  • One should avoid ruling via magistrates, if one wishes to be able to "ascend" to absolute rule quickly and safely.

  • One should make sure that the people need the prince, especially if a time of need should come.

7) How to Gain honours

A prince truly earns honour by completing great feats. King Ferdinand of Spain is cited by Machiavelli as an example of a monarch who gained esteem by showing his ability through great feats and who, in the name of religion, conquered many territories and kept his subjects occupied so that they had no chance to rebel. Regarding two warring states, Machiavelli asserts it is always wiser to choose a side, rather than to be neutral. Machiavelli then provides the following reasons why:

  • If your allies win, you benefit whether or not you have more power than they have.

  • If you are more powerful, then your allies are under your command; if your allies are stronger, they will always feel a certain obligation to you for your help.

  • If your side loses, you still have an ally in the loser.

Machiavelli also notes that it is wise for a prince not to ally with a stronger force unless compelled to do so.

In conclusion, the most important virtue is having the wisdom to discern what ventures will come with the most reward and then pursuing them courageously.

Epilogue :

The Prince is an extended analysis of how to acquire and maintain political power.

Most of the Societies or Regions in the world today are opting for Democracy.

This Treatise may give you the Sketch of the behaviour of the people in the Powerful Chairs and will definitely give wonderful insights in the Leadership and Statecraft.

One should excercise caution in adopting these unwritten laws of political power, otherwise, it will end up with extreme backclash from Society or results in erosion of Individual Moral Consciousness .

Sometimes, One may gain the power by deploying extreme measures, like what it takes to gain power and sustaining the Throne and Conducting the Administration will become

Monumental Taskin later stage and One has to think through the Consequences before adppting those Extreme Measures.

MM Rao


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