While both offer ways to subdue insurgency and limit dissent, their works are deeply moral in nature. In fact so much so, that it is not possible to understand how they understand power without initially understanding what ethical conditions underlie the need to use power. Furthermore, power itself is a manifestation of moral and ethical desires. In order to make sense of this ethical substructure located in the work of Machiavelli and Hobbes, and analysis will be undertaken to explicate the conditions that they hold make the need and use of power necessary and beneficial for society. For Machiavelli the greatest moral good is that of a stable and virtuous state, and any action should be directed toward that end, while for Hobbes the need for the utilization of power derives from the inherent desire to elevate man out of the state of nature. It is only through an investigation to these underlying assumptions can an understanding of their related theories of power be compared and properly deployed in modern society.
Niccolo Machiavelli focuses on hereditary and newly acquired monarchies in The Prince, having devoted time to the nature of republics in another work (Machiavelli 34). One of the most important characteristics that a new prince can have, and by prince Machiavelli is referring to any leader of a nation or state much in the same way Hobbes uses sovereign, is that he acts virtuously. "When these [actions] are recognized as virtuous, he wins over more men and they are more bound to him than if he were of the ancient blood" (Machiavelli 118). It is essential that men be bound to their prince because this manifests itself in stability and loyalty to him. When such men are dissatisfied with their leader they are more likely to foment rebellion and such a rebellion is more likely to be successful as their cause will be seen as just. Machiavelli is very much concerned with how a prince is regarded among his subjects. He spends much of the work discussing the respective advantages and disadvantages of being loved versus being hated or being feared versus being liked or being generous versus being parsimonious. The sort of individual who recognizes these advantages and is able to manage them well is a person of high valor and ability. Machiavelli cites a number of historical sources to reveal how these highly qualified individuals are best able to maintain a stable and peaceful state, despite the difficulties in establishing it. The difficulty arrives insofar that since men, "do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them," it requires a great of tact and resolve to install stability where there was once corruption and or chaos, thus men are chosen by the moment for which to act and be counted (Machiavelli 50). Machiavelli of course recognizes the need for the military and physical subjugation of people in order to keep them pliant. He explicitly acknowledges the fact that the characters in history he mentions such as Moses or Theseus would not have been successful had they been unarmed, but it nevertheless remains that their ability to persuade and compromise occasionally allows them to maintain their position. The state is inseparable from its prince and vice-versa. The maintenance of their position while serving their purposes also serves the purposes of the state.