The Prince All the states, all the dominions, under whose authority men have lived in the past and live now have been and are either republics or principalities. In Machiavellis, The Prince, timeless keys to a successful principality are examined. The keys are understanding human nature, respecting that nature, and reaffirming that successful leadership can exist in the same fashion yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Machiavellis perspective of human nature is founded on the principle that people in general dont want their culture changed by an outside influence. Machiavelli demonstrates in the book that the nature of people is to defend who they are. When the prince attempts to change their culture in any way the subjects will do any number of things to crush this attempt or even change the leadership.
If a prince uses force to try to change people this will lead to hostility, because as Machiavellis says, they remain, defeated, in their own homes. This underlying fact will lead to a rebellion of some sort. One way this rebellion can happen is when a powerful foreigner invades the principality. The now defeated people will join this powerful foreigner, in hopes that their culture will now be respected, to dethrone the prince. When the prince tries to use force to control the people it only creates enemies. Machiavelli explains this aspect of human nature when he writes, he harms the whole state by billeting his army in different parts of the country, everyone suffers from this annoyance, and everybody is turned into an enemy.
On the contrast if a prince allows the people to keep their customs Machiavelli states that the people will remain content when he writes, For the rest, so long as their old ways of life are undisturbed and there is no divergence in customs, men live quietly. Another natural tendency of people comes with freedom. Once they have had a taste of freedom, they virtually cannot live without it. This feeling of control over ones life is a quality that once molded is nearly impossible to reshape. Machiavelli asserts this idea when he writes, a city used to freedom can be more easily ruled through its own citizens..than in any other way. The same tendency lies in the control that the prince gains over the people in the principality.
Once the prince has control he finds that giving up control to be extremely difficult. That is why ideally a prince would posses a number of qualities to find success as a leader. Only through an understanding of the nature of his subjects, having an ability to control his subjects, and possessing the means to defend his subjects can the prince truly find the universal key to open the door to upholding the ideals of practical leadership. When a prince understands the nature of the people it is easier for him to enter the land. Machiavelli writes of the Romans and how they developed their empire, the Aetolians once brought the Romans into Greece; and in every other country they invaded, the Romans were brought in by the inhabitants. Because the Romans understood human nature their movement into power was unchallenged.
Once in power it is essential for the prince to be able to control the people. I say that a prince must want to have a reputation for compassion rather than cruelty: none the less, he must be careful that he does not make bad use of compassion. When Machiavelli wrote this he was outlining the key to controlling the people. The prince needs to be able to keep the people united, and loyal to him and at the same time ensure respect for the laws by instilling a fear for punishment. One of Machiavellis most used examples of a successful prince is Cesare Borgia.
It is essential to be feared not hated and in the case of Borgia his minister Remirro de Orco punished law breakers in a cruel fashion that led to people hating Borgia. To create a feeling of fear for punishment rather than hatred for the prince Borgia decided to punish his minister for all to see. One morning, Remirros body was found cut in two pieces on the piazza at Cesena, with a block of wood and a bloody knife beside it. The brutality of this specticle kept the people of the Romagna at once appeased. Finally, once control has been established the prince is now obligated to defend the people.
This only comes through a strong military. Machiavelli believes that the military is essential to help create friends for the prince, form trust from the people, and avoid attempts from foreign lands to invade his principality or citizens to overthrow his government. Machiavelli writes that, a prince should assume personal command and captain his troops himself. Experience is shown that only princes..achieve solid success. Though these keys were expressed by Machiavelli over 450 years ago they are most definitly applicable today, and in the future.
In examining the 20th century two leaders have seemingly emulated the ideas of Machiavelli, Adolf Hitler and Mao Tse-Tsung. Hitler understood the nature of the German people, which allowed him to eventually rise to power, by one vote. By exploiding the vulnerability of his comrads in the post-World War 1 era he appealed to their needs. Once in power he used the minority as an example that he should be feared which at the same time allowed him to gain the trust of the majority. Hitler stands alone in history as being an individual that was able to justify horrid acts in the minds of his people. The same people that formed an army and nearly succeeded in conquering the European continent.
Hitler possessed the three keys of understanding, controlling, and defending, and as hard as it is to say he was a successful leader in the 20th century. A leader who didnt use intimidation to gain power rather manipulation to develop control and support was Mao the first communist dictator of China. Through his little red book Mao used positive reenforcement to oil the gears of one of the worlds strongest super powers. Mao didnt try to use force and change the culture in China rather he persuaded the people into having great national pride. This pride enabled Mao to control the people also build a strong military and defend his land.
In China Mao did and still today, decades after his death, have a hand in every aspect of Chinese life. Both of these leaders project how timeless Machiavellis ideas truly are. The first rung of the ladder to a successful principality is the understanding of human nature. A nature that values consistency over forced change and an atmosphere of control over ones self instead of someone blatently controlling another. Through this understanding of human nature can a prince hold his power.
Once he holds this power the best way to keep it is by providing defense for the people whom he has power over. These ideas were present in the infamous reigns of Hitler and Mao. Machiavelli is correct there are either principalities or republics, and I have come to the conclusion I prefer the latter. Bibliography The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli European History Essays.