The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli | Book Review

Niccolo Machiavelli’s world-changing classic on the defining use of realpolitik in governance and foreign policy.

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The Prince is a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli.

In this book, Niccolo Machiavelli isn’t arguing about morality, what is bad, what is good rather  through reasoned analysis based on numerous historical examples, that the most effective way to govern a population is through decision-making based on the current situation without muddying up the waters with considerations of morality.

           “How we live is so different from how we ought to live that he who studies what ought to be done rather than what is done will learn the way to his downfall rather than to his preservation.”

The book is divided into three sections. Section 1 is interesting to read, but its dry having historical perspectives. In section 2, the writer discusses the mercenaries. Section 3 is the real meat of the work and contains the bulk of the advice that garnered Niccolo his much deserved reputation for suggesting the propriety of abandoning morality in governance.

Well, some may argue that the books is very evil nature but if gauged with the lens of a realist one can agree with what the writer has got to say.

“The new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all…People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.”

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

Machiavelli had a very cynical view of human nature, as in his biting comments on this subject:

“Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely”.

He discusses whether a ruler should try to be loved or feared (he thinks that ideally, it should be both), but he thinks a ruler should take care not to be hated, adding that he won’t be unless he is rapacious of women and property (he clearly views women as “belonging” to their menfolk, an attitude that would have been typical of his time).

“My view is that it is desirable to be both loved and feared; but it is difficult to achieve both and, if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”

Do tell us in the comments section as what do you think about this book?