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Department
Political Science
Course
POL200Y5
Professor
David Carvounas
Semester
Winter

Description
POL200POLITICAL THEORY Niccolo Machiavelli and the Italian RenaissanceNiccolo Machiavellis impact on political theory is that he is one of the first in Italy during to realize that traditional morality will not do in a time for turmoil for Italy Machiavelli was born in time that Italy was a very fragmented nation with many different citystates wars and factionalism which troubled Machiavelli as he wanted to see Italy united under a secular ruler He preferred a republic but first an absolutist monarch is necessary to unite the factions and to work with Fortuna in such a way that the political plan of the prince can be realizedIn his letters Machiavelli admitted that during the day he would go to bars and drink with the other men and also play games and talk with the local forester who is cutting down the trees At midday or in the afternoon he would put on some more regal and formal clothing and go into his study and try to understand what the ancients thought about humanity human nature and political organization Despite the fact that situations and technology may change human nature has been generally constant throughout Machiavelli hoped to find the best way to organize society and to learn from the ancients critically and philosophically their perceptions of human nature He studied such authors as Plato Socrates Aristotle Cicero and many of the ancients whom he interrogates in his study to answer his pressing questions in regard of how to best unite a factionalizes society such as Italy which has many contendersthe French the Spanish the Roman Catholic Church many different vying citystates such as Florence in particular and the Ottoman TurksWhile Machiavelli believed that politics is not religion in that the works of the ancient men of antiquity were not absolute and godly in anyway they are still able to offer him some crucial insight in how humans operated as that is the basis and foundation of all political ideology and theory of how society is to be organized for the best of everyone in commonThe Italian Renaissance was also occurring in Machiavellis time as it provided him with all the literature and wisdom from the ancient times to the present in his era to analyze and understand the essentials of political organization human nature and since human nature is not always constant he would have to be very critical in his approach In essence Machiavelli is saying that he wants to unify the state of Italy but to do so he must seriously consider what others have said and their experiencesMachiavellis The Prince and The Letters and The DiscoursesThere has been extraordinary misrepresentation and misunderstanding of Machiavellis work by those of lesser minds throughout contemporary times This is because often his contemporaries only wanted to see him as evil powerhungry ruthless and heartless in his political theoryHowever Machiavelli really wanted for his readers that is those who are princely and who are capable of great leadershipnot the ordinary masses who are lost in drudgery to understand the importance and significance of theory in political science in order to understand how to rule and what to do under certain conditions There is nothing esoteric or occult about Machiavelli or his theory of political rule It is important understand and read his work honestly and with great care as what he says is not the same as what his contemporariesthose of lesser minds wanted him to be portrayed and painted asDespite the impression that most people gave Machiavelli he was not a bad person nor was he evil The Prince was simply an opening act the first act amongst three that form the foundation of his most crucial philosophy of human nature and what to do as rulers He has one eye to the past and another to the futurea future of modesty and unity for Italy and also of dignity and ordernot barbaric warfare civil war and bloodshed He wanted the Prince to be the one who can carry out the task of uniting Italy That was his agenda and point for writing The Prince Machiavelli did not only care about power and how to attain and maintain itthat is all nonsense since Machiavelli cared much more about political philosophy based both on experience and knowledge of the pastMachiavelli loved his citystate of Florence the Republic that is and he wanted it to become great but he did not want to see the citystates to be constantly at war with each other over nothing and having the French and Spanish trying to take a chunk out of Italy as he believed that the cause of Italys fragmentation was due to the leaders themselves who did not know how to rule or for that matter how to bring about unification of ItalyFlorence at that time was a Republic not a fullblown democracy that is open to change and flux The reason why he wrote The Prince when he did was that one family was in charge of both the Roman Catholic Church and the city of Florence at that timeand it was not an opportunity to be wasted as the same family could potentially bring about the unification of Italy under one leader He wanted to pass along what he has learned and in turn The Prince interrupted his other larger work The Discourses of Livy which was about how to maintain peace and power at the same time once the war and bloodshed is over Politics unfortunately is not a science because there is no absolute rules or a guidebook for how to gain and maintain power There are general statements and actions to be taken but not laws to absolutely and resolutely guide every single action of man That is because times and contexts as well as situations change While most people would remain constant and be wellsettled with their character the Prince on the other hand must be able to adapt change and be able to mend and bend his character to situations and contexts as well as control his desires for both irrational and rational power violence and war versus reason and logicor deception and cunningOverall what Machiavelli wanted to do was to ensure that the main point of The Prince did not escape the reader who is a Prince He wanted to make it easily digestible and readable even comprehensible for the Prince since at that time the Prince was not exactly the brightest man in Florence who is called Lorenzo de Medici The Prince is not a howto manual an instruction manual or even scientific in scope because Machiavelli admitted that he is not the worlds first political scientist or theorist because of his predecessor such as Plato Socrates and Aristotle who gave him much to think about in the first placeA major theme in Machiavellis work is that of Fortuna Fortuna is sort of like lady luck in that it depends largely on intuition and pleasing this woman because woman are fickle unpredictable always in flux and you have to keep them amused or else one shall suffer their wrath because women are largely unpredictable and are always in flux Fortuna is also irrational and can change her mind in an instant because of her emotionsAs a sidenote Machiavellis book The Prince is not here to guide us in our personal existence and it is not a lifemanual on how to gain power and control Rather it is a work of political art because politics is indeed art as one must be able to have some even limited control over ones own destiny but also be able to take advantage of Fortuna as she can do anythingboth expected and unexpected She can bring us up only to tear us down She can also take us to rockbottom and bring us to the heights of our glory It really depends on context There is nothing in life that we can absolutely say that we have figured out because we have to be able to adapt and change with the situation of our times As for the phrase Beating Fortuna to submission it does not mean that we torture and beat the hell of out women What Machiavelli is saying rather is that if the Prince allows himself to be guided by Fortuna only and if he is arrogance and thinks that he has it all figured out much like Oedipus then he will be doomed by Fortuna and her wrath or her blessingbecause she is irrational and full of surprises that will both shock us and stun us to submission and her fateThere are things according to Machiavelli that we can do to please Fortunasuch as being more cautious prudent virtuous adaptable and we have to keep amusing Fortuna or else she will get bored While we cannot control everything it is better than controlling next to nothing It is all about how to interact and engage in a world of constant flux change and evolution that is unpredictable in nature and scope Hence politics as emphasized earlier is no science or magicit all depends on human nature our understanding of our own selves our society and our landscapepolitical moral ethical economic and whatever other variables there are to contend withThe prince must also have foresight vision and virtue The prince must be able to entice her good fortunes and her good side Machiavellis mindset is very ancient and we must not look at it from a scientificrational perspective because his mind is still locked to the past and a future that is based not necessarily on reason but mastery of the citystates an Italy that is much more disciplined and ordered but not necessarily peaceful per se This is because politics is not nice or pretty It involves lies murder massacre deception deceit cunning seduction temptation and the forging of alliances that will not lastonly permanent interests and goals that are constantly sustained through blood and fear if necessaryMachiavelli offers a lot of practical advice for the wise Prince because he needs to understand what he must generally do if he can do it The wise leader must be both a man and a beast In terms of being a man if he can get something done without murder and intrigue then that is magnificent even glorious on his part On the other hand as a beast he must able to commit the most horrendous of crimes and lie about it in the end in order to maintain peace and relative order Once again nothing is absolute and leaders have to think and analyze the situation more carefully before they rush headon into a situation that they know little about The prince has to be able to artfully and skilfully control the political dynamics and relationships around him Most important of all CONTEXT is everything Context forms the basis for all actions and decisions of all world leaders Now most us of are largely cowards because we are not willing to get our
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