Monday, June 28, 2010


I have the book “The Prince” by Nicholas Machiavelli. And I have been reading it off and on. Though the book is of a hundred and odd pages and was bought from ‘Land Mark’ Chennai some years ago it has taken me all the while to even reach any where near the end page. Now that I get frequent calls from R and she keeps reminding me of reference books she wants for her political science class, I decided Machiavelli’s ‘Prince’ would be an earnest choice of reference. I have to give her the book when she comes home in a few weeks time.

However to me, a lay person, with little understanding of political treatise and political science, the book was more telling from a social point of view vis a vis myself as a social being and the others - friends, relatives, acquaintances, business accomplices etc.What  is told in the 'Prince' is ipso facto seen happening all around in various the present world.

Machiavelli did not precede father figures of political science like Aristotle and Plato but he lived centuries after .He lived in the fifteenth century in Italy, and, is  considered as one of the pillars of political science and the art of  political dispensation, a la Chanakya in ancient India. The “Prince” was published only a few years after his death, though he shared the treatise with his close people.
It is trifle unjust that Machiavelli’s name must be identified with or taken as synonym for wickedness, furtive and be seen as a repelling trait or character in a person.

Machiavelli was born during a turbulent time in Italy. And the Papacy was at one end trying to dominate the Princes and assert divine dispensation. Whilst the princes and the wealthy elite where sceptical about one another and were at loggerheads and war.Machevellie was trained by his strong father and he entered Florentine bureaucracy as junior. He later was sent to French court as envoy. He soon got absolute authority in war related matters and the militia. After a grievous coup de tat he was imprisoned, tortured and let free. He retired and retreated where upon he wrote the “Prince”.

The Prince is a discourse of prudent and crafty political dispensation. It is simple in context, how a ruler can achieve control over his domain. Scruples and values have no meaning when it comes to struggle and perpetuation of power. Though morality is given a pedestal it is seen in the context of political dispensation and necessity. The criteria are acceptable cruel action, decisive swift and short lived. The book is a manual which explains how to acquire and keep power.
The church proscribed 'The Prince' as it has always done to thoughts .Machiavelli’s   treatise is based on his observation while in the government and the ways and means by which Princes conduct themselves.

 Interestingly Machiavelli did not believe that virtuosity brings happiness.. And terrifyingly he says the ruler better be feared and loved, and better be feared than loved, that he can rule. It is no wonder that taking the Machiavellian cue many coups have seen total annihilation and rooting of the surviving members of a dynasty. Let it be the Bolshevik revolution, the French, or the Mujib family annihilation in Bangladesh, brutal and swift action has been the thumb rule.

 Machiavelli documented his observations as to how, if , when and why . He valued virtue. He valued individual freedom and hence a republic. But he warned, that for freedom and liberty to thrive the citizenry has to be virtuous, courageous and on guard. Though he believed that it is difficult to achieve an assembly of these idealism and they rarely existed anywhere.

Machiavelli believed that human nature was immutable and led by passion.
What is strikingly contemporary is the cunning and deviousness that is orchestrated in day to day life in our society. The usage “Machiavellian”, as an adjective and a synonym  for stealth and wickedness to achieve once end though was only commented upon by Machiavelli is now practiced in his name .The immutable nature of human beings is incorrigible as well. In every aspect of human society and life we can notice the prophecies and inferences of Machiavelli zealously practiced. .If Machiavellian thesis was about drama that would be enacted in courts of princes, and their wily ways to harbour power, in our present day society, it is in fact a daily facet of life be it in politics, business or social and personal relationships.

1 comment:

A New Beginning said...

Machiavelli: a famous name in the pages of history..thanks for sharing :)