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Interpreting Macchiaveli

Nicolo Macchiavelli’s argument, in which, he stresses the need for princes to literally capitulate on their “evil sides” and overtly practice it under certain scenarios— readily present his unorthodox approach to leadership and maintaining power. Relatively, an initial impression of Machiavelli’s argument readily places him under scrutinizing eyes. Needless to say, Machiavelli tends to challenge the generic notions about princes and rulers. More often than not, leaders are expected to show kindness and generosity.

This can be primarily attributed to the fact that rulers are theoretically indebted to the public and that kindness, as opposed to cruelty is an effective way to gain popular support. However, from a critical perspective, Machiavelli readily dismisses the idea that kindness and good will can strengthen the foundations of a kingdom. Rather, it is deemed as an overt weakness on the ruler’s part. Albeit these conditions, Machiavelli’s assertions can be best described as something that is, indeed pragmatic and neither relies on rhetoric nor romanticism. Firstly, Machiavelli counters the myth that rulers are saints or deities.

Like the legion of men that it a prince governs, the latter is also a human being capable of committing cruelty regardless of whether that is intended or not. Machiavelli strips off the seemingly divine-like image attributed to princes and other rulers that are highly detrimental to their existence. However, despite of the negative connotations given to Machiavelli’s core beliefs, Machiavelli articulately justifies his side via stressing the importance of building a strong state. A strong kingdom cannot materialize if its ruler is unsecured of his position.

Under this context, it can be argued that Machiavelli readily realizes that the constant shift of leadership can create further divisions and social fragmentations that could weaken the nation, thus, making it vulnerable to foreign and internal attacks. Internal attacks are perceived as more deterrent than external oppositions. Therefore, the need for securing and maintaining power cannot be directly described as a mere caprice of the prince concerned. It is a need that each and every prince should ensure. An all-giving prince is readily prone to abuse and betrayals, both by his allies and the individuals under him.

Showing kindness makes the prince transparent and predictable. Predictability makes him an easy target for vicious predators. In this manner, the prince does not only endanger his throne, but also the lives of innocent individuals. Kindness, in this case, neither generates nor delivers good results. Instead, such act invites abuse and exploitations. Therefore, if force, suppression and other unkind acts could efficiently function as the prince and the kingdom’s form of defense, then such should be thoroughly employed. Apparently, Machiavelli is highly aware that the political terrains of many nations call for the survival of the fittest.

The weak is eventually destroyed and the strong ones remain. But this could not be achieved if the prince let his emotions overpower rationality. Emotions are perceived as liabilities rather than assets. However, this does not necessarily mean that the prince should have an utmost disregard for his subjects’ feelings. As a matter of fact, a ruler should prevent any activity or moves that can cause extreme hatred. Being unkind, therefore, should be carefully balanced. To further illustrate this, Machiavelli expressed high preference to resorting to cruelty rather than showing sympathy or forgiveness.

As stated in The Prince: So a prince must not worry if he incurs reproach for his cruelty so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal (53). In any given circumstances, a ruler, known for his cruelty shall incur a negative reputation. Nevertheless, such act is rather understandable and to a certain extent—more noble than being easily swayed down by emotions. To justify his assertion, Machiavelli used criminal acts, to be more specific, murder and robbery, as examples of situations in which cruelty should be evidently manifested.

Under this context, a leader can easily forgive these individuals and emulate a saint-like image. But then again, being merciful will only encourage repetitive acts that subject society into risky situations. Cruelty should be immediately applied to these individuals in order to salvage the existence of the community. Basically, the idea in here is to instill fear. The intense fear that emanates from cruelty becomes a highly pragmatic form of social control. Written laws are not enough to prevent community members from committing criminal acts.

Pardoning them is synonymous to tolerating those crimes. However, if they are punished, even if the processes are severe or inhumane, this will serve as a warning to other crime perpetuators and other dissidents. Thus, they have no other choice but to obey. As a result, the prince is able to retain his powers via crushing his opponents and at the same time, fulfill his duty to the public. Apparently, it can be observed that Machiavelli readily distinguishes the boundaries between morality and effective leadership. Cruelty is undeniably immoral.

But then again, a kingdom, characterized by social ills and stability is unforgivable. Likewise, in the event in which oppositions in the kingdom or government are manifested, it can be also argued that cruelty should be utilized as well. Relatively, the prince in this context has manifested his thorough understanding of what it means on knowing how to disregard kindness and effectively apply it in certain situations. Another example that clearly supports Machiavelli’s contention about disregarding kindness, is reflected on how he instructed princes in issues that deals with integrity and fulfilling promises.

Here, Machiavelli emphasized that a prince should master the art of deception. As he explained, “one must know how to colour one’s actions and to be a great liar and deceiver (57). ” In many cases, rulers that remain true to their word, earn the respect of their subordinates. Yet, in hostile environments or situations, word of honor is hardly practiced. Machiavelli is cognizant of the fact that pledges of allegiance and loyalty does not in any way guarantee that the prince’s people will not turn their backs against him. This is also applicable to the prince’s ministers.

Since, it is the nature of these individuals to take advantage of other men, regardless of whether they hold positions in the kingdom or not, the prince is not obliged to fulfill his promises. This is most especially true if such would present a threat to his reign. But nevertheless, the prince should make it appear that he is indeed, being true to his words in order to prevent any kind of revolts or uprisings that primarily originate from hatred. Logical justifications and explanations should be presented to the public in the event in which integrity cannot be practiced.

Evidently, infidelity is an unkind act, yet the absence of a leader due to issue regarding betrayal of trusts can likewise harm the whole community. Yet, infidelity should be expressed in a subtle manner. In this way, subordinates can keep their trust and confidence to the prince. An overall assessment of Machiavelli’s work clearly presents that his ways cannot be ultimately labeled as something that benefit his own interests. Evidently, a community that cannot be governed by a strong and seemingly invincible prince would soon crumble into pieces.

Retaining power, instilling fear, resorting to cruelty and employing deceit, readily deviate from the idealist norms and canons of effective leadership. But then again, these are just precautionary measures that can guarantee peace and order. Pragmatic politics cannot be fulfilled by simply depending on the romanticized ideals of what is morally right or wrong. Machiavelli’s “The Prince” cannot be totally described as a prelude to tyranny. Rather it is more of transforming the ruler’s weaknesses into strengths. ` Works Cited Machiavelli, Nicolo. The Prince. Trans. George Bull. London, Penguin Books, 1999.

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