The contemporary political world owes a lot of its stature to defining and perception of Nicolo Machiavelli in his works, and The Prince gives a particularly vindictive view with respect to the societal norms and ethics. This view, therefore, evoked (and still does draw) criticisms, giving the author a distasteful appeal to the realists who are more inclined to morality and ethical practices in leadership and governance (Baron 1988, 78).
During his time, the society placed ethics and morality above everything, and politics were not an exception. For anything to be recognized and accepted as a means of achieving leadership and thus governance, it had to be in keeping to what was widely accepted as being morally upright and acceptable. Machiavelli’s approach was different in that it separated the two (Baron 1988, 35).
His separation of politics from ethics not only embodied his ideas to what is practiced today, but also set his approach on a path that, even though challenged by realists, gets sufficient support from philosophies widely experienced in the world. According to his views, power and the authority that comes with it is the ultimate drive behind politics.
This power centers around one person. The lengths that individuals have to go in their quest to achieve it or for those that already have it to retain it do not necessarily have to conform to set ethical statutes, unless such a move would result in achieving or retaining power (Hooker 2010, 13).
Contemporary politics are centered on power. In fact, it is viewed as ‘the tool’ to achieving it. Politicians go out of their way in their pursuit of power.
They are ready to do whatever it takes to wrest it from their opponents, irrespective of the murk they would have to endure, or the effects of whatever approach applied. This is a complete contrast to what was realistically viewed and accepted as the norm- power inheritance (Mansfield 1995, 67).
He eludes fortune to a lady that is the subject of attention to draw a line between what was and what should be- Ideally, the lady was courted and pleaded with before accepting a hand in marriage. For Machiavelli, the ideal prince went against morals –he got what he wanted forcefully (Hooker 2010, 35).
By this, he sought to express the principle behind politics being independent or indifferent to virtues and societal norms in pursuant of power. He goes ahead and recognizes popes Alexander VI and Julius II who retained power through warfare success, despite the society’s negative views about them.
The prince, therefore, is portrayed as a villain by ignoring the-seek- (and beg) until- you- find an approach to woo Lady Fortune and instead takes her by force as noted by Hooker (2010, 45). This makes him one of the greatest men to ever live.
Harsh as his ideas may have been, Machiavelli is without a doubt the father of modern politics, since his ideologies form the stem of politics as we know it today. The Prince represents the power seekers of the day, who go beyond societal norms, to claim it. As long as they achieve what they desire, the end justifies the means. According to Mansfield (1995, 12), he was a go-getter in all his undertakings and never shied away from his goals.
Baron, Houghton.1988. In Search of Florentine Civic Humanism. Oxford: Wiley.
Hooker, Richard. 2010. The Renaissance Reader: The Prince. http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/REN/MACHIAV.HTM (accessed on February 5, 2011).
Mansfield, Hitoler. 1995. Machiavelli and the Idea of Progress: History and the Idea of Progress. Cornell: Cornell University Press.