On Machiavelli and Machiavellian Politics

On Machiavelli and Machiavellian Politics
  • 3

The period of the West’s Renaissance marked the glory of Machiavellian political thought. Machiavelli was an Italian ambassador, political figure, philosopher, historian, humanist, writer, dramatist and poet par excellence of this enlightened period (Lahtinen, 2009). His western political thought is extensively used as a pessimistic and cynical term to portray crooked statesmen of the kind he styled most superbly in his classic work ‘‘The Prince’’ which he wrote in 1513(Giorgini, 2013). Machiavelli was very much influenced by Aristotle’s theory of separation of ethics with politics. It was he who laid the foundations of secular politics.
According to Aristotle ‘‘the state is the highest institution’’. Machiavelli acknowledged this and gave preference to state in all the essential matters of politics and governance. In fact, the necessity of the state is the starting point of Machiavelli’s political philosophy. During the Middle Ages in Europe, politics was subservient to ethics and morality and it was Machiavelli who argued and advocated the separation of ethics and politics. Morality, according to him, has double standards- one for the ruler and one for private citizens (Philip & Pelczynski as cited by Plamenatz et al., 2012). Machiavelli further posited that, the ruler is above the morality because he can use immoral means for achieving political goals. In a private life it is good to be moral and ethical but as far as political life is concerned it is bad to be moral and ethical. Since the ruler heads the state, his immoral means are reasonable (Plamenatz et al., 2012).
. Machiavelli’s works encompass many subjects – including The Prince, which comprehends several axioms in relation to politics and governance, treatises and dialogues on livy, which discusses classical history of ancient Rome, a discussion about the provision of money (1502), a glimpse of the affairs of Germany (1508-1520), the art of war, great military knowledge (1519-1520), a discussion about the reforms of Florence (1520) along with an eight-volume historical development, and a crux about the businesses of Lucca (1520) coupled with its profile.
Moreover being a political scientist and statesman par brilliance, Machiavelli also wrote fictional works incorporating a section of stories (1525), a novella namely Belfagor Arcidiavolo (1515), a drama, poems, a semi-autobiographical comedy explicitly Andria (1517), and a prose or textual comedy that is to say Clizia (1525). As far as politics, diplomacy, and statecraft is concerned poetry, according to Machiavelli, is an essential component. He proposes to discuss poetry, which he defines as a means of the art of statecraft. He insists upon the art of statecraft which is not everyone’s cup of tea. To learn the art of governance by scrutinizing and considering its fundamental parts and then drawing general inferences is a challenge for the Prince or a leader. He also penned down an essay on the art of war. Machiavelli points to the nature and significance of the good laws and good arms. He quotes: ‘‘The main foundations of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones, are good laws and good arms you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow.’’
Machiavelli proposes a systematic, logical, and scientific approach to the art of statecraft, which has many advantages. Through his political thought, there was entry of modern political thought which incorporates modern political notions of secularism, open-mindedness, patience, the importance of rights, individual contentment and happiness, freedom, popular sovereignty, representative government, international peace, and cooperation and so on.(Article 1000.com). Machiavelli viewed politics not as a natural phenomenon but as a man-made craft, with planning and organization first, and then made tentative theories and recommendations for statecraft and diplomacy. His notion of The Prince helps in the explanation of what is characteristic and distinct about our experience and understanding of the art of governance. Politics is derivative, thereby meaning that it invites us to envisage its subject-matter as factual and genuine while admitting that it is, in fact, detached with ethics.

When we go through Machiavelli’s thoughts, philosophies and ideas on the art of statecraft, we get directly connected with the means and end to power in general and state power in particular, for the end always justifies the means. He argues that “it is better to be feared than loved” and that “the appearance of virtue” is more imperative than virtue itself. War preparations should be the primary occupation of a leader, and that perpetual, pro-active action is indispensable to avert others from taking hold of power. There is an analogy between Thucydides and Machiavelli since both emphasized power politics (Paul Anthony, 2008).
According to Machiavelli, persuasion is an art and a ruler has to use it craftily and cleverly. He says that a ruler should have the qualities of a lion and a fox. He should be as powerful as a lion and as clever as a fox. Education is an important tool of persuasion, economic growth and, development and gains standing in all times. He quotes that‘‘the one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise that the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not.’’ Political thought is a continuous process and it is very important to draw a line of demarcation between the classical political thought and modern political thought whose foundation was laid down by Machiavelli.

Paul Anthony Rahe. (2008). Against throne and altar: Machiavelli and political theory under the English Republic.
Plamenatz, J. et al. (2012). Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Oxford Scholarship Online.
Mikko Lahtinen. (2009). Politics and Philosophy: Niccolo Machiavelli and Louis Althusser’s Aleatory Materialism. BRILL. pp. 115–16.
Giovanni Giorgini. (2013). Five Hundred Years of Italian Scholarship on Machiavelli’s Prince, Review of Politics 75#4 pp. 625–40
Article 1000.com. n.d. State and Statecraft by Nicollo Machiavelli. Retrieved from http://article1000.com/contributor/