Discuss Machiavelli's View On Morals And Politics In The Prince

2480 words - 10 pages

Discuss Machiavelli's view on morals and politics in his work The PrinceMachiavelli's masterpiece The Prince is one of the most polemical texts on political theory. Since its publication in 1532 there has been widespread debate among political theorists about his political morality. Today the term 'Machiavellian' used in everyday speech and has extremely negative connotations, a person so described is deemed as 'cunning, scheming and unscrupulous'(Fowler:1995). Is this a fair representation of Machiavelli? In order to fully analyse his views on morals and politics in The Prince it is important to look at the historical background at the time he was writing, before determining how radical his views were. After looking at the complete picture it will be possible to realise the exact nature of Machiavelli's political morality.The age in which Machiavelli was writing the Prince greatly influenced his work. He wrote the book after the collapse of the Florentine Republic in 1512 as a manual for Lorenzo de Medici. He had spent his time in political office serving the Florentine Republic and so he had a background in republicanism. In order to understand Machiavelli's stance on politics it is important to look at what the word precisely meant at this time. The main idea of politics in early modern Europe is described by Maurizio Viroli in Machiavelli and the Republican Idea of Politics:"The word politicus and its correlatives were used to refer exclusively to the civitas which was understood as a community of men gathered together to live in justice under the same laws.' (Viroli:1990:145)."The Italian city republics of the quattrocento created an ideal environment for the rebirth of the art of civitas. The humanists of this era felt that politics was never divorced from civitas which included the rule of law, justice, liberty, self-government, concord and virtue.Machiavelli did not completely reject the conventional meaning of politicus. He recognised that it still was intrinsically related to civitas but in order to maintain political stability it was not enough to just simply rely on the rule of law. The state had to be defended as well. This is demonstrated in The Art of War where he explains that a good ruler must "love peace and know how to make war". (Machiavelli:1521:342). Machiavelli does not reject the republican view of politics. In The Prince he never uses the word politica as he associates this with civitas and the city. Instead he is looking at principalities and how they should be ruled and preserved. Therefore, instead of being concerned with the art of the city he starts to look at the art of the state, which he sees as separate from traditional politics.Having determined the republican idea of politics in the quattrocento, it is important to look at the humanist ideals of princely government and how far Machiavelli agreed with them, before the Prince can be fully understood. To humanists in the late fourteenth century the ideal ruler was...

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