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Machiavelli: The Power Of Fear Essay

1080 words - 4 pages

Niccolo Machiavelli stressed that “one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved…for love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.” He felt that a true leader must be cunning and deceptive, winning the hearts of his people through power and influence. If he could not be liked, he could at least get by knowing he has intimidated these below him into submission. However rash or cruel this may seem, Machiavelli’s argument is not one to be countered easily.
Historically, many dictators and democratic leaders have almost always wanted to be loved, while those leaders responsible for maintaining law and order by force – such as corporate managers, department heads, police – wish to be feared. In some respects, it is impossible to have one without the other. To be loved would imply weakness in one’s leadership; to be feared would bring the assumption that a ruler is heartless and uncaring about his people and their welfare. With too much love comes the want for a more respectable, terrifying figure that could not ever possibly be overthrown or taken advantage of, and vice versa. It is the human habit to want what we cannot have, as the proverbial grass of politics will always seem greener on the other side.
If one were to choose to be either feared or loved, their best bet would be to instill fear in their constituents. A loved, weak leader may be usurped by those with less pure intentions. However, one that is feared will have a much greater, lasting effect on its people and/or followers, scaring them into order. With either good or bad intentions, it is useful for a leader to either become or pretend to be a force to be reckoned with, to maintain his power and authority over others.
People are unlikely to overthrow a ruler that they fear, for they dread the punishments of failure. If the ruler is not feared by the people, he will eventually upset enough of them that they will rise up against him. They will overthrow him because of his perceived weakness, and his name and image will be shamed in the eyes of both his government and his people. Machiavelli believes that the state is completely separate from the ruler’s private life. No matter how immoral or heartless the ruler may be in private, only his public image is important. A ruler can be a terrible, sleazy person on their own time, and when not involved with matters of the state, but at any time when the leader is involved in politics and the state, you cannot afford to injure the image of the ruler or else anarchy will develop. With this kind of rebellion can come revolution, war, and many other tragedies that could be otherwise avoided.
While being feared may not solve long-term problems or may lead to rebellion, a strong, intimidating...

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