Machiavelli’s Prince: Power, states and principalities

Prudence and the Prince

A pragmatic Italian, a realist and a contemporary political philosopher, Machiavelli was a prudent advisor to the Florentine Republic. The Prince was written in a period of the Renaissance, when Europe was plunged into multitudes of warring periods between states and princes, for the struggle of power. The Prince was the ultimate strategy guidebook for conquerors, kings and princes, to deal with power, through prudent regulation of the state and its principalities.

Machiavelli touches on a fundamental aspect of a prince: principalities in its own given right (hereditary); achieved through the approval of civil and nobilities; and the level of acceptance of his ruling people that comes with it, be it existing or contemporary.

The prince has a plethora range of qualities over ruling its people, for they see deemed fit, but for a culmination of a successful principality, one has to strike a balance between his behavior and actions. He categorized these behaviors and actions into two important factors: virtu and fortuna.

Virtu is a set of human values, be it crude, good or neutral. What defines the virtu of a prince, also determines the relationship between his people and the ability and trust they beholden in him. Fortuna refers to luck or fortune, as what a certain series of events may bring damage or advantage to his ability to govern his state. In a broader sense of the word, the prince must seize upon any fortuna, or opportunities to benefit his rule over his people.

The relative sense of governance may differ if a prince holds benevolence or fear in his subjects and people, as to one defines his virtu. But as time progresses, he must change his view of governance; for a strict or lenient, fear or love, that either of which encompasses each other, for the former or latter is evidently present supporting the lesser at the same time but only proceed with his actions with prudence.

Machiavelli points out a salient view, that governance is better managed through fear, while sustaining a better relationship between his subjects and people, through free will and liberty.

Diplomacy in prudence is as imperative as the formation of arms. The arms of a state act as a shield of deterrence, to protect its own sovereignty through non-intervention but also gives rise to the opportunity of conquering other states.

First and foremost, the legitimacy of the people has to be considered, for the notion of building its arms based on the polity is non-negotiable to second rate auxiliaries, mercenaries and outsiders. Machiavelli condemns the loyalty and trust of these second raters that they have self-internal interests and will not fight to their hearts’ content for the sake of the state.

The success of the prince’s principalities bodes down on his prudence, in practical and realistic views that Machiavelli subscribes, and will only thrive on these instances when his subjects and people hold accountable to him.


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