7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2001
Machiavelli wrote this book for the Medici back in a time that is suppossed to be so different from today. Yet, The Prince is as applicable as the day it was wrote- maybe more so. It's a concise, almost surgical, guidebook to world domination. Superficially, this book is written like stereo instructions with precise directions on control of your enemies, followers, and friends. But, deeply, it will force any serious reader to take stock of the lengths neccessary to attain great power. Lives are flited at like pieces on a chess board with absolutely no uneccessary concern (if they can't hurt ya, screw 'em). Why, aside from that whole learning about world domination thing, this book is such a neccessary read for anybody with a stake in daily life is because this is the book your leaders sleep with under their pillow. There hasn't been an intelligent, powerful, and influential political leader that hasn't been influenced by Machiavelli and this book. It's very important to really wrap yourself around reality in reading this book so as to open your own eyes to what people do to lead (not just dictators, facists, and imperialists, but deomcrats and republicans.). This book is Political Reality 101- you must read it.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2011
While much of the material might come off as cold, deceptive, immoral, or just unacceptable to the average person, it is truly a unique reading experience. Machiavelli unemotionally lays out a series of logical arguments on what one must do to gain and, perhaps more importantly, maintain power over a people/society/kingdom, citing multiple examples and explanations for each one. I would recommend this little book without hesitation as an interesting read on historical politics and strategy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2012
I can see from some of the reviews written here that there are many disagreements and agreements regarding what was written in The Prince. Well like everything in life, there will be people who will agree with what one says and also people who will disagree. As for myself, I agree (although not with everything) with what Machiavelli has written. I am a pragmatic individual, so if a person is writing about something reasonable/logical and backs it up with evidence then I can't help but to agree.
Now let's analyze what Machiavelli talked about? His main point of what he was trying to convey throughout the book was "The ends justifies the means", now what does this mean? what he was trying to say was that it's ok for a prince to lie, cheat, steal, be faithless and commit acts of atrocities so long as it benefits him. Now to a regular person this type of thinking is that of a psychopath/sociopath and I agree, who in their right mind would actually act in this manner? Machiavelli however only recommended princes to act in this manner as he wrote in his book Discourses on Livy "The best remedy whoever becomes prince of either a city or a state has for holding that principality is to make everything in that state anew;.... to make the rich poor, the poor rich, as did David when he became king...., not to leave anything untouched in that province, so that there is no rank, no order, no state, no wealth there that he who holds it does not it as from you; and to take as one's model Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander, who from a small king became prince of Greece with these modes. He who writes of him says that he transferred men from province to province as herdsmen transfer their herds. these modes are very cruel, and enemies to every way of life, not only Christian but human; and any man whatever should flee them and wish to live in private rather than as a king with so much ruin to men. Nonetheless he who does not wish to take the first way of the good must enter into this evil one if he wishes to maintain himself." (Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, University of Chicago 1996, book 1 chapter 26 page 61-62). Do you notice how he said, "and any man whatever should flee from them and wish to live in private" meaning as an ordinary citizen, but if a person chooses to be a prince then he must out of necessity commit immoral acts in order to secure himself, and he gave lists of examples of princes in both the prince and discourses who did not act prudently or in the manner they should have and thus in turn brought about their ruin and as a result brought about their people's ruin. I don't know about anyone else but to me that sounds realistic and logical.
How would Machiavelli's word fit in today's world? People from the modern century (21st) are from a completely different world than people from the 15th century, it doesn't take a genius to see that. We can easily see that in Machiavelli's age almost every nation was hostile against one another, they committed and fought wars based upon mediocre excuses that really held no justification, we see popes declaring and fighting wars (pope Alexander and Julius), princes breaking alliances for their self interest (Francesco Sforza turning against the Milanese who hired him). And that's the world Machiavelli came from, that's the world he knew, Machiavelli lived in violent and chaotic times in which Italy was divided into several states so it's no surprise to me Machiavelli wrote the Prince in which some people find quite immoral, the Prince would be a perfect guideline for any prince living in those times. In today's world I wouldn't say for sure. Today we are more globally connected, we can interact with people through telephones anywhere across the world, diplomacy is out in the open and open to public scrutiny (although not completely), we have human rights in which every person has the right to life, liberty and freedom (although it's not perfect it is better than what people had in the past), much of what Machiavelli said would not suffice in today's world, especially the part about war, Countries cannot simply break alliances without some serious repercussions, countries cannot go to war with one another unless they are ready to be criticized with war crimes by the global world (especially against countries with nuclear weapons). However, Machiavelli's teaching would partly suffice in today's world, politicians still have to put up a facade that they are about world peace, religion, and a better tomorrow even though they truly aren't.
This brings me to my final question, why is everyone still outraged by what was written in the Prince, despite the evidence? My opinion is that everyone is of a different make, some are influenced a lot more by personal feelings than others. So when people who have strong personal feelings read the Prince then it's no surprise they will feel outraged. Machiavelli talks about prudence and necessity, and prudence according to Machiavelli is taking the course that would bring the least harm and maximum benefit to oneself, and sometimes that would include, lying, cheating, stealing, being faithless or whatever immoral act one would commit if it's NECESSARY. Looking at the bigger picture this mode of governing serves the greater good as one is preventing a greater evil by committing a lesser evil, but people according to Machiavelli live in the moment they don't look towards the past or the future and that they could only see what one does not feel what they do. That's why people are still outraged, well at least that's what my theory is.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2003
Machiavelli's immortal treatise on monarchical government, while not necessarily applicable in the strictest of senses today, nevertheless contains many valuable insights pertinent to the modern leader. Machiavelli has gotten a bad rap, and not all of it undeserved, but his work nevertheless contains some extremely valuable information. The likes of Hitler, Napoleon, and Mussolini have counted themselves among Machiavelli's disciples, and the term "Machiavellian" often is synonymous with deceit and evil.
So what is the use of Machiavelli today? After all, the book was written over 400 years ago, in the age of feudalism. Despite its age, Machiavelli's advice is very useful today. One of his best qualities is that he sees people for what they are, not what they should be. Where other philosophers concern themselves with how men should act (in an ideal situation), Machiavelli realizes that, in reality, men will not act as they should, and so his focus is on how men actually do act. If he has an overall pessimistic view of mankind, he is not entirely unjustified.
Of course, not all of Machiavelli's ideas are acceptable in today's world. Machiavelli asserts that the populous is weak, stupid, and easily contented. And though he believes popular support to be extremely important, he believes so only because this condition adds to the power of the monarchy. In today's world of democracy, this doesn't really fit. And his admonitions that the prince use hypocrisy and deceit whenever convenient are a bit hard to swallow. Still, if you REALLY understand what he's saying, it becomes clear that Machiavelli, while condoning these and other vices, says such unlawful practices should be indulged in ONLY when it will benefit the state. In his eyes, the end should justify the means.
In short, Machiavelli's work is a masterpiece of human thinking. We still have much to learn from this old thinker, and do ourselves a great disservice by dismissing his ideas as evil (in fact, his condoning of deceit is exaggerated to some extent). Machiavelli's methods are certainly dated and cruel in many respects, but many of his basic thoughts are very useful in today's world.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2013
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is a classic guide to acquiring and maintaining political power is refreshing in its directness, yet often disturbing in its cold practicality. Starkly relevant to the political upheavals of the 20th century, this calculating prescription for power remains today, nearly 500 years after it was written, a timely and startling lesson in the practice of autocratic rule.
on August 1, 2014
It is wildly hilarious that I can be one of the 15 or so reviews of this book that effectively determines the rating of this work on the worlds largest literature purchasing platform in the world. That is almost as comedic as the subject matter.
I came to Machiavelli through his comedy plays, which are hilarious and a plus for those of you into the whole hotwife and adultery humour. Sure the context of where Niccolo was when he wrote this and the surrounding political climates make this book a more fuller experience, but I feel like thats a vast subject matter that could be better explored in an HBO long arc style of TV show. The scenes with NM in prison while the Medici establish their power in the city all set against a backdrop of Italian women doing nude bathhouse scenes and the occasional war flaring up with gruesome death all around... Can you say Game of Thrones on the Mediteranian... Mmmmm Italian women....
While the content is familiar to us all today via tropes and architypical usuage of the concepts through history and even plagerised into speechs over the ages this book is mostly interesting as a study into the types of people who ascribe to it as a high work of practical philosophy. It is said that the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau kept a copy in his bedside table and traveled with the book while leading Canada... Canada... the same Canada that is peace loving and merciful.... thats funny.
Liberalists, humanists and populists beware! This is the how-to-manual that the political right-wing has been reading and memorizing since the early 1500s. In what some persons may claim to be an objective manner, Machiavelli clearly defines the intricate steps that are necessary for a Prince (aka Dictator) to not only seize control of a country, but to firmly maintain that control and then to finally expand his/her holdings by invading and conquering neighboring lands. I personally view this approach as being nothing more than a self-guided tour of beligerent control, underhanded manipulation and elitist greed.
There is nothing in this text that reinforces that 'all men are created equal' nor that the social structure of government is to be for all persons and not the few who view themselves as its ruling-elite. Machiavelli elevates political leaders to an almost god-like existence and views them as separate from, and not part of, the populace they are attempting to dominate. While this book is, and always will be, an indictment on dictatorial and monastic rule, I strongly urge everyone to read it. We, as a voting public, have a tendency to become lax and overlook some of the control issues that are shown by our existing elected officials. This book serves as a guidepost to what may occur if we ignore the present and questionable realities for too long and do nothing to halt them.
on December 29, 2001
This little volume makes for some entertaining reading but it is not the supreme Renaissance literary or philosophical masterwork, as some would like us to believe. Based on admittedly sound insights in mass psychology and geopolitics, Machiavelli formulates some practical guidelines for autocratic rulers, helping them to seize power and to hold on to it. By no means the author's intention is to instill his target audience with cruelty and bad faith. His reasoning is thoroughly pragmatic in the sense that it outlines the implications of a particular course of action, substantiated by concrete examples from Machiavelli's own time and from Antiquity.
I would say that many observations are still relevant and applicable today. In that sense, The Prince is as good a book on leadership as you will find on the shelves under the Management heading today. As a management consultant, I was quite sensitive to the point that is made in two of the final sections of the book - A prince's personal staff' and 'How flatterers must be shunned' - about the relationship between the prince and his advisers. Machiavelli makes a very good point when he holds forth that "The choosing of ministers is a matter of no little importance for a prince; and their worth depends on the sagacity of the prince himself." In other words: a leader gets the advice that he deserves. If the consultancy profession has been taken under fire lately because of malpractices, charlatanism and greed, then this is to a significant extent rooted in the immature and opportunistic attitude of many clients vis-à-vis their advisers. If external consultants are drawn in to turn the odds in political battles or to relieve the client of responsibilities about decisions he ought to take himself, then, yes, you can be sure that the sharks will come and take their due. It's a matter of choice and vigilance. Machiavelli knew it all along.
(Review was based on George Ball's translation in the Penguin Classics series)
on February 17, 2002
This has to be one of the most innovative books ever written on leadership. Not only did The Prince turn the idea of being a leader on its head (most books up until this one focused on the virtues it took to be a prince), but it is also surprisingly comprehensive (Machiavelli touches on many subjects in just 80 pages), and restrained (Machiavelli says more than once that violence should only be used when there is no alternative). The danger comes in misinterpreting Machiavelli: using violence as a first and not a last alternative; and betraying people for no good reason, thinking it will not come back to haunt you.
Most of the issues in this book are still relevant today. After reading this book, you should be armed with what a lot of books take hundreds of pages to explain: why it's important to take bold stances; why a prince must embark on great undertakings; and why developing your decision making and judgement are the only ways to be a wise leader.
on November 6, 2003
I dont usually do book reviews, mostly music, but after reading The Prince, I just had to write a review. I first heard of this book a long time ago, when I was studying the Renaissance. Of course, you cannot study it without coming across Florence, and in Florence you will find Machiavelli.
After hearing what it was, a dark look on politics, on life, and on man, I picked it up and gave it a read. This, of course, isn't for everyone. You'll have a lot of trouble understanding it if you aren't familiar with the politics of the time, especially in Florence. I found myself looking in the dictionary once in a while anyway, even though I pride myself of being above average when it comes to knowlege of such things.