Machiaveli: ‘The Prince’

Niccoló Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an Italian writer and politician whose book, The Prince, expressed many radical ideas that represented a break from the medieval past. The Prince, written in 1513, was a sort of political guide for princes. It gave advice for effectively holding power, and for what the conduct of the prince should be. Machiavelli believed that the prince, or the political authority, was not bound at all by any form of moral principle. The prince could justifiably commit any crime for the good of the state, and it would become a “glorious crime”. There was no mention of natural law, and no citations of the Bible. This was a break from the past, because previous political thinkers would have determined what should be a prince’s moral conduct based on certain principles. Machiavelli believed that moral principles do not apply to the political authority. According to him, it is better for a prince to be feared than to be loved. however, it is not good to be hated, for this may endanger the state. The Prince was not a call to vice, however. It said that virtue should be practiced when possible in order for the people not to hate you. Machiavelli had very radical political ideas, which called for the supremacy of the state, and its complete freedom from any moral principle. It broke from tradition, ignoring natural law and human nature.

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