The Prince Review and Analysis.pdf

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Political Science
Janice Stein

The Prince Summary and AnalysisOverview Machiavelli composed The Prince as a practical guide for ruling though some scholars argue that the book was intended as a guide on how to rule The Prince is not particularly theoretical or abstract its prose is simple and its logic straightforward These traits underscore Machiavellis desire to provide practical easily understandable adviceThe first two chapters describe the books scope The Prince is concerned with autocratic regimes not with republican regimesThe first chapter defines the various types of principalities and princes in doing so it constructs an outline for the rest of the book Chapter III comprehensively describes how to maintain composite principalitiesthat is principalities that are newly created or annexed from another power so that the prince is not familiar to the people he rules Chapter III also introduces the books main concernspower politics warcraft and popular goodwillin an encapsulated form Chapters IV through XIV constitute the heart of the bookMachiavelli offers practical advice on a variety of matters including the advantages and disadvantages that attend various routes to power how to acquire and hold new states how to deal with internal insurrection how to make alliances and how to maintain a strong military Implicit in these chapters are Machiavellis views regarding free will human nature and ethics but these ideas do not manifest themselves explicitly as topics of discussion until laterChapters XV to XXIII focus on the qualities of the prince himselfBroadly speaking this discussion is guided by Machiavellis underlying view that lofty ideals translate into bad government This premise is especially true with respect to personal virtue Certain virtues may be admired for their own sake but for a prince to act in accordance with virtue is often detrimental to the state Similarly certain vices may be frowned upon but vicious actions are sometimes indispensable to the good of the stateMachiavelli combines this line of reasoning with another the theme that obtaining the goodwill of the populace is the best way to maintain power Thus the appearance of virtue may be more important than true virtue which may be seen as a liabilityThe final sections of The Prince link the book to a specific historical context Italys disunity Machiavelli sets down his account and explanation of the failure of past Italian rulers and concludes with an impassioned plea to the future rulers of the nation Machiavelli asserts the belief that only Lorenzo de Medici to whom the book is dedicated can restore Italys honor and prideGlossary of TermsAuxiliary troops foreign troops a prince uses to fight his own wars often a readymade unit Civil principate a state in which a private citizen becomes prince by the choice of other citizens Hereditary principate a state in which the prince is simply descended from a line of rulers power is handed from one family member to the next Mercenary troops soldiers a prince hires to fight for him often culled from a variety of places Principate principality any state ruled by a princeFlorence in Machiavellis DayFlorence in the late 1400s when Machiavelli first entered the political world was a beehive of a place buzzing with activity Scheming politicians rubbed shoulders with aspiring artists while towers rose and philosophical treatises hit the presses The city was a booming commercial center and more or less the capital of Tuscany Florence a republic for as long as we have records of the city since around 1000 AD held sway over the Tuscan cities that surrounded it Siena Pisa San Gimignano Pistoia and othersThe Medici family ruled Florence for much of the 15th century and theirs was in some ways an authoritarian rule That said the Medicis never entirely abolished the citys representative government Pietro Medici was run out of the city in 1494 and shortly thereafter Machiavelli rose to prominence The greatest menaces to Florentine republicanism were now in exile and Machiavelli was free to exercise his talentsPiero Soderini named gonfalnier in 1502 brought a greater degree of stability to Florence than it had known in quite some time This may have tempered some of the more turbulent aspects of the citys politics but it certainly did not mute them Florence at the time possessed one of the most vibrant political scenes in all of Europe Most officials were limited to short terms and therefore election campaigns were nearly constant and often overlapping Among the numerous parties and factions were religious reformers the Guelfs antiGerman and tolerant of the Pope and the Ghibellines proGerman and antiPapacy Guilds were active in politics and Florentines of every class were
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