The Machiavellian Analysis Of Politics

1834 words - 7 pages

Written around 1513, Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince is arguably one of the most famous treatises on politics in history. Dedicated to Lorenzo de ’Medici, ruler of Florence at the time, The Prince was not published until five years after Machiavelli’s death in 1532. It contains Machiavelli’s well-known analysis of politics: all politics is characteristically defined as the struggle of acquiring and maintaining power. Within his analysis, Machiavelli (1513) writes “One who adapts his policy to the times prospers” (p. 99). This paper will argue that the framework of Machiavelli’s political analysis — adapting policies to the times leads to prosperity which leads to gaining and maintaining power — is reflected through key American presidents during the Civil Rights Movement. Both President John F. Kennedy and his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, adapted their political policies to ensure their own prosperity during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement when American society was in the process of shifting from an era of racial discrimination to an era of racial equality.
The meaning of “One who adapts his policy to the times prospers”, though seemingly self-evident, is actually part of a broader discussion regarding the concept of fortune. The word “fortune” as it was used by Machiavelli, coincides with the contemporary notion of luck or chance. Machiavelli compares fortune to a raging torrent that destroys everything in its path if not controlled by dikes and dams prepared by the virtue of the governing body. For Machiavelli, virtue, otherwise known as cunningness or preparations, must be exercised over fortune in order to combat it and be prosperous. During the period in which Machiavelli wrote The Prince, many believed that it was Fortune who governed all external things. However, Machiavelli argues that this is not entirely true. In order to allow for free will, Machiavelli asserts that only half of our actions are arbitrated by fortune while “she leaves the other half, or close to it, for us to govern” (Machiavelli, 1513, p. 98). Likewise, Machiavelli notes that whoever relies solely on his fortune will be ruined as fortune changes over time. As time continues to change, prosperity becomes increasingly difficult for one to achieve. However, Machiavelli argues that if one was to adapt their policies according to the changing times and circumstances then they would be prosperous. It is implicit in Machiavelli’s statement that to adapt one’s policies to the nature of the times will not only lead to prosperity, but also to power, something Machiavelli believes is deeply rooted in all politics. For Machiavelli, one does not change his policy to the times only to be prosperous, but more importantly to retain and gain power. In the case of President John F. Kennedy during the Civil Rights Movement, the Machiavellian analysis of politics holds true.
United States President John F. Kennedy experienced the full swing of the Civil Rights...

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