Machiavelli's Reputation In The Modern World

3106 words - 12 pages

Machiavelli's Reputation in the Modern World

Niccolò Machiavelli was known during much his life as a part of the republican government in Florence until 1512. At that time, the Medici family took over the city and ruled under a more monarchical system. From that point until his death in 1527, Machiavelli was always just on the outside of Florentine politics. He would occasionally get work from the Medici but his tasks were never as important as they had been under the republican government of the past. As he was trying to find his way back into a major role in Florentine government, Machiavelli wrote The Prince, a manual of sorts that explained how a monarch should rule his state and why. While Machiavelli had been a strong proponent of republican ideals in the past, in The Prince, his ideas are far from adhering to republicanism. The book seems to promote the ideal monarch as a cold, heartless person whose only goal in life should be to retain power, regardless of who or what he destroys. This includes killing enemies of the state, personal enemies of the Prince, and even, in some cases, friends or family. While The Prince was not the first book of this kind, it was the first to suggest a government that rules with no regard for religion or morality. Machiavelli did not particularly pay heed to religious law in the way he lived his life, but he also did not particularly care for the Catholic Church of the time because of the lack of morality demonstrated by the Pope's and other supposedly "religious men's" actions at the time. There are other works that Machiavelli wrote both before and after The Prince that survive today, as well as letters he wrote to his friends that demonstrate a different set of ideals than those shown in The Prince, however it is The Prince that he is most known for. His name is attached with its ideals and he has been linked with some of the more ignominious names of the twentieth century, such as Mussolini, Hitler, and Jean Pierre Boyer. Anyone who is ruthless is considered 'Machiavellian' nowadays. But some of Machiavelli's other books, The Discourses, The History of Florence, and some of his personal correspondences to friends and family indicate that Machiavelli held a different set of ideals.

In the second half of the twentieth century, Machiavelli's other writings have come to more prominent light. Although many have questioned his motives behind writing the Prince in the past, only recently have his other works been more closely studied. In particular, the letters he wrote to friends and family while he was writing The Prince and those he wrote before and after, which provide details into what he was thinking at the time. Also, The Discourses is another book that talks about how to govern a state. In that book, Machiavelli is far less ruthless than in The Prince. He even goes so far as to say that monarchy is a bad form of government. So, while the term 'Machiavellian' still holds the...

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