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Niccolo Machiavelli and the Modern World - Research Paper Example

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Niccolo Machiavelli and the Modern World

In the eighteenth century, his writings were used to inspire a belief in the inevitability of radical change among revolutionaries (Baker 204-207). Following this revolutionary trend, Leon Trotsky said that Machiavelli was the political philosopher who generalized "the experience of democratic revolutions" (Trotsky 850). This image persists today: Roger Boesche argues that Machiavelli was "the greatest theorist of how popular government can defeat tyranny" (Boesche 165). In 1513, he wrote his best-known work, The Prince, which has become one of the most influential books ever written in modern political philosophy. Benedetto Fontana asserts that Machiavelli's new prince "was to have forged a political and cultural alliance with the people, and thus initiate a ‘rinnovazione’ [renewal] aiming at a new Italian state" (Fontana 148). It had a dramatic impact on modern political thought. The Prince In The Prince, Machiavelli offered practical leadership advice designed to keep a ruler in power, illustrating his ideas with practical, historical examples. He actively endorsed stratagems that would discourage mass discontent through the diversion of an opponent's energies; through such tactics, a leader could channel enemies' efforts elsewhere. In this way, a leader could create conditions in which it would be disadvantageous for his opponents to try to replace him. Machiavelli believed that a leader would occasionally be called upon to make use of force; however, he professed that force should only be exercised in response to dire circumstances. According to Machiavelli, a good leader would be able to walk away from evil means when they were no longer required. A leader would likewise benefit from respecting the need for his subjects' well being. In his discussion on the value of liberality, Machiavelli cautioned that a Prince should be liberal by maintaining the general welfare (86) Machiavelli realized that good fortune had a key relationship to restrained use of resources for the best overall effect. Leaders should be frugal, both in allocating resources to the military infrastructure that protects the state from external threat and in allocating funds to the political and economic infrastructure that promotes the welfare of the state. Once people understand that frugality is in their best interests, it will be linked to good fortune over the long term. The ability of a prince to act in his own best interests and the best interests of the people (even when, initially, they might not see his acts as desirable) requires that he not be governed exclusively by a rigid code of ethical standards. The ends, in some instances, could justify the means. Despite his overriding concern for the best interests of the ruler and the preservation of the state, Machiavelli professed that general ethical standards are desirable to maintain, when possible. Chapter 21 of The Prince deals entirely with the value of a ruler's positive reputation. According to Machiavelli, a prince needs to appear as a true friend and should show himself as a "lover of merit" by giving "preferment to the able" and honoring "those who excel in every art" (112-113). Although Machiavelli did not claim that such standards are required for success, he did laud ethical leadership as a general guideline. Machiavelli's innovation was that ethics were expendable. He outlined a series of circumstances and situations in which a leader might be forced to use violence to a degree that would be morally reprehensible in any normal ...Show more


[Author’s Name] Niccolo Machiavelli Introduction Niccolo Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469, in Florence, Italy. In his adult life, he put his education to use as a political philosopher and diplomat…
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