Quirky Books: Art of War by Niccolo Machiavelli

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Art of War by Niccolo Machiavelli

A must read book for managing large companies and corporations is "Art of War" by Niccolo Machiavelli. Translated by Christopher Lynch it is full of battle metaphors related to training, organizing, productivity, maintaining a business and gaining efficiency.

Christopher Lynch has a PhD in Social Thought and teaches Political Science at Carthage College. He observes the historical information around the book and avoids insight on interpretive essays. This is intelligent, because he remains a solid source of information, while explaining many broader passages in Modern English.

Machiavelli (1469-1527) brought about the term Machiavellian which means "crafty or deceitful." A person should be knowledgeable of other methods and avoid accepting anything he writes as absolute truth. The blunt discourse in "Art of War" uncovers both great truths and malice. Remember to filter and review content with a strong ethical or moral bias. His leadership skills are exemplified in how Italy was able to unite and fend off enemies, yet some concepts are simply inaccurate.

Some of the bright points of the book include the explanations of securing a fortress wall. Fabrizio states the ditch is dug inside the wall with soil against the wall. We understand motes go around the castle; however, when an enemy attempts to ram the wall dirt on the other side is packed tighter. When the wall falls, it falls onto mounds of dirt so the enemy must run up a steep incline to enter the fortress. The ditch is then armed with spikes. The metaphor is to hide defenses. The enemy sees the wall and not additional barriers.

Finding the business metaphor is difficult on several occasions. The clinical description of war tactics often reads like the bible. All the counting and ordering is monotonous. Not thoroughly reading results in missing insights.

Christopher Lynch states characters in the book are archetypes in plays. This may be true, yet some of Fabrizio's passages are unsettling. At times the flustered tone reminds me of an inquisition. For this reason, I believe parts of the book stems from conversations with soldiers or those accused of crimes punishable by death. The presumptive ranting is similar to a person hoping to avoid punishment or delay the inevitable.

Be forewarned, they attempt to stay true to the original language. Awkward phrasing interferes with enjoying or understanding the context. Machiavelli is an abundant character whose villainous reputation survived for centuries. This should be an interesting read for theologians, business professionals, political scientists and historians. Anyone with an interest in these topics will also be entertained.

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