The Prince by Machiavelli - Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince by Machiavelli

By Niccolò Machiavelli

  • Publication Date: 2013-01-01
  • Genre: Philosophy

Book Overview

The Prince (Italian: Il Principe) is a political treatise by the Italian diplomat, historian and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From correspondence a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, De Principatibus (About Principalities). But the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. This was done with the permission of the Medici pope Clement VII, but "long before then, in fact since the first appearance of the Prince in manuscript, controversy had swirled about his writings".
Although it was written as if it were a traditional work in the Mirror of Princes style, it is generally agreed that it was especially innovative. This is only partly because it was written in the Vernacular (Italian) rather than Latin, a practice which had become increasingly popular since the publication of Dante's Divine Comedy and other works of Renaissance literature.
The Prince is often claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning how to consider politics and ethics.

Although it is relatively short, the treatise is the most remembered of his works and the one most responsible for bringing "Machiavellian" into wide usage as a pejorative term. The descriptions within The Prince have the general theme of accepting that ends of princes, such as glory, and indeed survival, can justify the use of immoral means to achieve those ends.
The types of political behavior which are discussed in ways which are apparently approving by Machiavelli in The Prince were perceived as shocking by contemporaries, and its immorality is still a subject of serious discussion.  
Machiavelli's descriptions encourage leaders to attempt to control their fortune gloriously, to the extreme extent that some situations may call for a fresh "founding" (or re-founding) of the "modes and orders" that define a community, despite the danger and necessary evil and lawlessness of such a project. Founding a wholly new state, or even a new religion, using injustice and immorality has even been called the chief theme of the Prince.

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