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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important and interesting work of political philosophy.
The term "Machiavellian" is frequently used to describe ruthlessness and brutality in a leader, and most people who have read about Machiavelli but have not actually read Machiavelli's own works assume that he believed "the ends justify the means." However, this is a common misperception. His actual words are: "[. . .] in the actions of all men,...
Published on July 9 2004 by Monika

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From the viewpoint of a high school Sophmore...
Being as though it's on our school's required reading list, we have to buy a copy and read it.
I would have no problem if the book wasn't so boring.
The book talks about how a country should be ruled if it were to be successful, and he does it rather well. The only problem is he doesn't make it interesting.
I've forced myself through a majority of the book...
Published on July 8 2004


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important and interesting work of political philosophy., July 9 2004
This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
The term "Machiavellian" is frequently used to describe ruthlessness and brutality in a leader, and most people who have read about Machiavelli but have not actually read Machiavelli's own works assume that he believed "the ends justify the means." However, this is a common misperception. His actual words are: "[. . .] in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, where there is no court of appeal, one looks at the outcome." He does not, here or anywhere else in his writing, attempt to provide any moral justification for ruthlessness, but merely says that a leader will always be judged by his people based on the end result of his actions. He was very pragmatic in his outlook on princely rule, and sought to explain the actions that would and would not be effective in gaining and maintaining the rule of a nation.
Another point of some confusion is the saying that "it is better to be feared than to be loved." Again, this is not quite what Machiavelli meant. His actual words are: "[. . .] there arises a dispute: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the contrary. The reply is that one should like to be both the one and the other, but as it is difficult to bring them together, it is much safer to be feared than to be loved if one of the two has to be lacking." It is also noteworthy to point out that the word "fear" at the time Machiavelli was alive was less synonymous with its modern meaning than it was with the word "respect." He was saying that a prince's throne is more secure if he is feared/respected but not loved than it is if he is loved but not feared/respected. Machiavelli does not say that a prince who is feared is the moral better of one who is loved.
"The Prince" is a truly fascinating work of philosophy, describing the ideal conduct (in mechanical and not moral terms) of an effective sovereign. Despite the fact that it is entirely concerned with the government of principalities, Machiavelli himself was a republican, and believed that the most effective form of government would combine elements of a principality, an aristocracy, and a democracy. His motivation to write "The Prince" came from his desire to ingratiate himself with the Medici family, the ruling power in Florence at the time, and also from his belief that only a single, strong ruler would be powerful enough to unify and liberate a then-factionalized Italy.
The book is not an easy read, but is more accessible than, say, Rousseau's "Social Contract" (I'm not equating the topics of these two books, but just comparing literary style). Machiavelli tends to use very long, complex sentences, and it's easy to get derailed before reaching the end of one. Some of his sentences easily take up a third of a page. Nevertheless, the content of "The Prince" is definitely worth the time and concentration it takes to read.
Readers who do not already have a detailed knowledge of pre-16th century Italian and ancient Roman history will no doubt have additional difficulties understanding Machiavelli's work. Being Italian, he used examples primarily from Italy's political history and from his studies of Rome. Machiavelli also, at times, misrepresents history either inadvertantly, or purposefully so as to better back up his arguments. He also has a tendency to over-simplify things, and does not take into account that real life is rarely as clear-cut as he presents it.
While many things have changed since Machiavelli wrote "The Prince" in c.1513, much of what he says is still relevant to some degree. The basic concepts he presents can be adapted for application in just about any position of leadership. However, it must always be remembered that this book was only meant as a technical guide, and does not attempt to justify itself on moral grounds. "The Prince" is also a worthwhile read for the reason that it will give the reader a better, more complete understanding of the term "Machiavellian," and the ability to recognize when it is or isn't being used correctly, as well as the ability to use it correctly themself. This is a must-read for anyone interested in political philosophy, and has much to offer whether you agree with Machiavelli's ideas or not.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, July 16 2004
By 
Rodney Ohebsion (CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
The Prince is truly a legendary masterpiece. More than a book on political theories, it covers topics such as human nature, influence, leadership, trickery, psychology, philosophy, etc. However, it is mostly the latter chapters that are interesting and deal with these subjects. The first half or so is not that interesting of a read. So I would advise that you just skip over the first forteen or so chapters at first, and then read them later if you want.
Also, there is a fantastic summary and overview of The Prince in the book A Collection of Wisdom by Rodney Ohebsion that I highly recommend. In ten pages or so, it gives you really the essence of The Prince that is applicable to people in their lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to rule the world..., Feb. 23 2003
This review is from: The Prince (Hardcover)
How to rule the world when the rest of the world is ruled by wimps! Not really, but this book proves that strong, aggressive leaders are the only ones who can get things done (even look at more recent history - Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain are a perfect example). This book not only talks about how to reign supreme, but how to avoid scandal, etc. Perfect for the young ambitious politicians and business executives out there. This edition in particular is good too because it has several things most others don't - a lengthy introduction explaining Machiavelli's character, and some recorded history by Machiavelli (History of the Duke Valentino's Conquests, Life of Castruccio Castracani) all in all a good read, and a word of advice to those ambitious and forgetful - write commentaries after every chapter, it helps with language skills and you'll have philosophical points on paper an easier to access.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling ... Especially for Despots, May 8 2005
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This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
Perhaps it is fair to call Nicollo Machiavelli a teacher of the tyrants. After all, this early sixteenth century book has long served as a reference guide to the likes of Hitler and Mussolini, despots who ruled with an iron fist and unmitigated cruelty. Yet, certain aspects of Machiavelli's text might also serve in some capacity to aid a free society as well.
Written by Niccolo Machiavelli (a Florentine nobleman of the early sixteenth century) to a local ruler, "The Prince" is a short text of just over 100 pages which reads very much like a personal letter. The text was sent as a gift by Machiavelli with an explanation that he could not afford to purchase a gift and had written this instead. It is, at the very least, likely that the gift was meant to find the author a place in the royals hearts and obtain Machiavelli some recognition.
"The Prince" is simply a guide. It instructs the reader on becoming a ruler and in the maintenance of power. From launching attacks on fellow kingdoms to conducting oneself in public, this book covers it all. Machiavelli dictates that a ruler must be affable, yet must stand above others at all times. He must know how to please both his guards and his peasants. He must form alliances and know when to break them. He must never let down his guard.
More controversial are the many cruel "necessities" dictated by Machiavelli. Machiavelli unabashedly declares that when taking over (deposing) or otherwise unseating a leader you must kill all of his/her bloodline. There must be no one left to vie for the throne. And that is one of many of the mandates that has fixed him forever with a terrible reputation. One nickname for Satan himself is Ol' Nick, probably taken from the Niccolo in Machiavelli's name. When it comes to grabbing and maintaining power, Machiavelli pulls no punches. His suggestion of eradicating a leader's bloodline harkens one back to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 Russia, When Czar Nicholas and his family were slain. It is easy to imagine "The Prince" having been used as a reference by many of the world's cruel dictators.
Machiavelli also cites many examples from governments of his time, such as the emperors of the Roman Empire. In each case he explains why the leadership did or did not work and what we can learn from it.
I found this book very entertaining. "The Prince" is as harsh as anything being published today and enthralling, but it will appeal more to history or political fans than others. It is also short enough not to be too daunting a read. "War and Peace" it is not.
While Machiavelli's arguments are valid (albeit cruel) there is one bothersome detail in his work that serves as a blaring irony. Upon exacting on us some barbaric charge that bloodlines must be slain or that untrustworthy officers must be killed, the author will turn around and give reference to God and declare that a good leader should always keep aware of him. Ol' Nick vows to slay and then to do God's good work all in the same breath. Hmmm...
Fascinating. Edifying. "The Prince" makes me more aware of the world around me and even more certain that I never want to go into politics. One final thought is the much-used quote by Machiavelli, taken from "The Prince:"
"Fortune is a woman and must be taken by force."
That's a standard Machiavellian idea for you. Pick up a copy of The Prince, and judge the book for yourself. For those of you who HATE the idea of power and tyranny, let me make a contrasting recommendation -- a recent Amazon purchase I truly enjoyed -- 180 degrees opposite from the philosophy of Machiavelli - it's a book called THE LOSERS CLUB: Complete Restored Edition by Richard Perez, a very engaging, comic novel told from the point of view of an admitted "weakling." Thank goodness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read, Oct. 6 2008
By 
Patrick Sullivan (Kingston, Ont. Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
This book was not what I expected at all. I always thought this book was only about stab in the back politics.
Machiavelli is tremendous observer of human nature. He understands human nature on a individual level, and on the larger scale of an entire society. He explains how an individual will react to certain situations, and how the group at large will react. His conclusions are timeless.
Machiavelli also draws many conclusions from the lessons of history. He recommends that leaders study history.
He also has valuable lessons in regards to the various types of governments. He points out the positive and negative aspects of democracies, aristocracies, and dictatorships. Once again his conclusions are timeless.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From the viewpoint of a high school Sophmore..., July 8 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
Being as though it's on our school's required reading list, we have to buy a copy and read it.
I would have no problem if the book wasn't so boring.
The book talks about how a country should be ruled if it were to be successful, and he does it rather well. The only problem is he doesn't make it interesting.
I've forced myself through a majority of the book and I still don't see a real point in reading it.
Machiavelli might have been one of the best political writers in his time, but I have to say, let bygones be bygones.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Virtues of Machiavelli, July 14 2003
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
In the course of my political science training, I studied at great length the modern idea of realpolitik. In that study I came to realise that it was somewhat incomplete, without the companionship of The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, a Florentine governmental official in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The Prince is an oft quoted, oft mis-quoted work, used as the philosophical underpinning for much of what is considered both pragmatic and wrong in politics today. To describe someone as being Machiavellian is to attribute to the person ruthless ambition, craftiness and merciless political tactics. Being believed to be Machiavellian is generally politically incorrect. Being Machiavellian, alas, can often be politically expedient.
Machiavelli based his work in The Prince upon his basic understanding of human nature. He held that people are motivated by fear and envy, by novelty, by desire for wealth, power and security, and by a hatred of restriction. In the Italy in which he was writing, democracy was an un-implemented Greek philosophical idea, not a political structure with a history of success; thus, one person's power usually involved the limitation of another person's power in an autocratic way.
Machiavelli did not see this as a permanent or natural state of being -- in fact, he felt that, during his age, human nature had been corrupted and reduced from a loftier nobility achieved during the golden ages of Greece and Rome. He decided that it was the corrupting influence of Christianity that had reduced human nature, by its exaltation of meekness, humility, and otherworldliness.
Machiavelli has a great admiration for the possible and potential, but finds himself inexorably drawn to the practical, dealing with situations as they are, thus becoming an early champion of realpolitik carried forward into this century by the likes of Kissinger, Thatcher, Nixon, and countless others. One of the innovations of Machiavelli's thought was the recognition that the prince, the leader of the city/state/empire/etc., was nonetheless a human being, and subject to all the human limitations and desires with which all contend.
Because the average prince (like the average person) is likely to be focussed upon his own interests, a prince's private interests are generally in opposition to those of his subjects. Fortunate is the kingdom ruled by a virtuous prince, virtue here not defined by Christian or religious tenets, but rather the civic virtue of being able to pursue his own interests without conflicting those of his subjects.
Virtue is that which increases power; vice is that which decreases power. These follow Machiavelli's assumptions about human nature. Machiavelli rejected the Platonic idea of a division between what a prince does and what a prince ought to do. The two principle instruments of the prince are force and propaganda, and the prince, in order to increase power (virtue) ought to employ force completely and ruthlessly, and propaganda wisely, backed up by force. Of course, for Machiavelli, the chief propaganda vehicle is that of religion.
Whoever reads Roman history attentively will see in how great a degree religion served in the command of the armies, in uniting the people and keeping them well conducted, and in covering the wicked with shame.
Machiavelli has been credited with giving ruthless strategies (the example of a new political ruler killing the deposed ruler and the ruler's family to prevent usurpation and plotting is well known) -- it is hard to enact many in current politics in a literal way, but many of his strategies can still be seen in electioneering at every level, in national and international relations, and even in corporate and family internal 'politics'. In fact, I have found fewer more Machiavellian types than in church politics!
Of course, these people would be considered 'virtuous' in Machiavellian terms -- doing what is necessary to increase power and authority.
The title of this piece -- the virtues of Machiavelli, must be considered in this frame; certainly in no way virtuous by current standards, but then, it shows, not all have the same standards. Be careful of the words you use -- they may have differing definitions.
Perhaps if Machiavelli had lived a bit later, and been informed by the general rise of science as a rational underpinning to the world, he might have been able to accept less of a degree of randomness in the universe. Perhaps he would have modified his views. Perhaps not -- after all, the realpolitikers of this age are aware of the scientific framework of the universe, and still pursue their courses.
This is an important work, intriguing in many respects. Far shorter than the average classical or medieval philosophical tome, and more accessible by current readers because of a greater familiarity with politics than, say, metaphysics or epistemology, this work yields benefits and insights to all who read, mark, inwardly digest, and critically examine the precepts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in modern day relevance, Jan. 20 2003
By 
obediah (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
One word alone drew me to this title...Machiavelli. A word that is now synonymous with deception and deceit, I felt compelled to visit the source and see for myself what Niccolo Machiavelli had to say. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that "The Prince" is merely a convoluted text with little modern day relevance.
Basically, the book is a "how to" guide for being an Italiance prince in the 16th century. Most of the book is quite specific to his set of circumstances. For example he discusses the difference between inheriting a country and acquiring a country by prowess. He talks about the difference between conquering a land with a single ruler as opposed to conquering a land with many rulers. Some statements are blindingly obvious "When you see a minister thinking more of himself than of you, and seeking his own profit in everything he does, such a one will never be a good minister."
The text is heavily laced with anecdotes to back up his points. These tales are not really generalisable to modern day times, for example "We have in Italy, the duke of Ferrara; he withstood the assaults of the Venetians in '84 and those of Pop Julius in 1510, for no other reason than his power had been established a long time".
The book does contain some pearls of advice - "A prudent ruler cannot, and should not, honour his word when it places him at a disadvantage and when the reasons for which he made his promise no longer exist". Machiavelli seems to have been a very pragmatic character and if he were alive today, I suspect he would be the embodiment of anti-poltical correctness.
Overall I found the book a very dry read. Try as I might, I found it difficult to extract much that was of modern day relevance. Note that I have read and reviewed the book as a person with little knowledge of Italian history, political science, or other related topics that may help in comprehending this text.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What was I thinking?, Aug. 3 2002
By 
"movingthestars" (chesapeake, va United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
I have heard references to the book in question for many years. I was looking forward to the chance to finally read it, but I was sorely disappointed. I found the book very dry and extremely difficult to understand. All I can say about those who have praised this book is that they surely must be more intelligent than I.
Machiavelli starts out on the very first page by saying that "I have not sought to adorn my work with long phrases or high-sounding words or any of those superficial attractions and ornaments with which many writers seek to embellish their material..." This statement is a mockery of itself. This whole drawn-out book is filled with embellishments of all sorts and it is beyond me how Lorenzo the Magnificent, the prince who Machiavelli wrote the book for, ever managed to get through it.
After reading every last page, I am still as clueless as when I began. ...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good guide to Politics and Leadership, June 2 2004
By 
David Orozco (Santa Barbara, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Prince (Mass Market Paperback)
I've never read any book related to politics in my whole life, and I found out by one of my World History teachers, that this book is a good way to get into politics and learn to be a good leader for your people.
The book really explains or simulates almost every single problem that a king, prince, president or any kind of governor would face. The book talks about how to treat the people of your kingdom, Machiavelly argues if you should use Love to rule your people or fear, to support his ideas Machiavelli uses examples from past rulers explaining what weaknesses they had and big mistakes the made.
For the first politic book I've ever read I found it really interesting and really helpful, the only thing that I didn't really like about it, was that to get a better understanding of the book you have to get some more background of the Kings, Dukes and governors he used.
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The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (Mass Market Paperback - Oct. 26 1999)
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