Quirky Books: The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

An inspirational book, it is truly kind though many people dubbed Machiavelli evil. The introduction of "the Prince" by Christian Gauss, states many premises are Christian, though flawed. An instance of contradiction relates to Machiavelli's life. Appointed by the royal court of Lorenzo the Magnificent France invaded. Machiavelli lost his position and when Lorenzo was restored Machiavelli sent a letter to regain his official position. In one the chapters he states siding with friends is honorable. This alliance to Lorenzo was Machiavelli's folly when France retook the city, because five years later Machiavelli died of poverty.

Published by Signet Classic 1999 and translated by Luigi Ricci in 1903 "the Prince" is a popular book amongst business leaders and politicians. Noting the overall the Christian message is almost realized as Christian Gauss stated:

When all princes practice deceit it soon fails to get results for any of them. This is what happened to Machiavelli's hero, Cesare Borgia. He had acquired considerable power through the use of force and fraud. He lost it when other princes successfully used the same method against him.

There are several contradictions in "the Prince," yet many topics are applicable. One of my favorites involves a passage in Chapter 17 "Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better to Be Loved or Feared." Prominently stated in the chapter, the concept is rehashed several times to a point of repetitiveness:

The prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined; for the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service.

The concept is as true now as it was then. A reputation earned, is better than one gained with purchase, because it is affordable on merit not money.

An interesting point about this particular edition of the book is a variation on a word currently associated with darker skin pigmentation. Originally, it meant miserly behavior, conceit combined with naivety and liberal spending. Anyone interested in figuring out the original meaning of the word can read chapter 16 in this, still printed, edition of the novel. Prince John of England, portrayed in the Story of Robin Hood, is the definition to the highest accuracy.

One of Machiavelli's most popular books, business owners and politicians must read it though insightful for everyone. The insight is gained with shrewd comparison of passages and daily life. Not everything is completely accurate and modern studies have shown vertical communication is important; however, many passages are for the average person. Perhaps if Machiavelli took some of his own advice he would have had a longer, fulfilling life.

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