Lao Tzu and Machiavelli's View of "The People"

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Azhar A. Sapargaliyeva
Professor Hammerbeck
Introduction to Critical Issues
18 September 2012

Compare Lao Tzu’s and Machiavelli’s view of “the people”. How does each author’s conceptualization of “the people” affect what kind of government they support?

Life experience, culture, language, time of living and many other factors affected Lao Tzu’s and Niccolò Machiavelli’s views on how an ideal leader ought to govern a country. These views, expressed in their texts, reflected on how these writers perceived the fellow men. Lao Tzu is a Chinese philosopher and founder of Daoism. He is the author of a philosophical document called “Tao-te Ching”. Niccoló Machiavelli, is a 15th century aristocrat and a writer, mostly famous for his political treatise, “The Prince”. This essay will attempt to analyze both authors’ views on human nature and the way these views affected the types of government supported. As mentioned above different lives of Lao Tzu and Machiavelli influenced their images of human nature. Lao Tzu worked in the court of the ruling dynasty and lived a quite stable and peaceful life in around the 5th century B.C.E. Whereas Machiavelli lived during the time of political turmoil in Italy. He was suspected of conspiring against the royal family and was even tortured for that (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Thus, these different living conditions led both philosophers to think of “the people” differently: Lao Tzu had a positive opinion of individuals, which is contrary to that of Machiavelli’s suspicious and cynical image of “the people”. This is important to analyze because these views in some way determined the way they portrayed an ideal government. Lao Tzu, in his “Tao-te Ching”, has an optimistic, almost idealistic perception of “the people”. His proposed attitude for the ruler to have toward citizens resembles that of parents toward a child. They treat the child with love and care. At the same time they let go of restrictions and rules, so...
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