Marx vs. Machiavelli

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A Contrast of Political Controversy: The Prince versus Capital
It is often very difficult to judge which policies and principalities are correct when comparing and contrasting controversial literary works. In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli presents many ideas that may be looked at as unethical by the general population of a nation. In fact, Machiavelli’s ideas were looked down upon by his own nation, Italy, resulting in his eventual exile. For Karl Marx, Capital presents many contradictions within itself. For instance, Marx’s claim that the general contradictions in Capitalism stem from the owner of a business needing to exploit human labor in order to increase profit and the general human population needing to work so that they continually make money, which can then be spent on goods where the money goes back to the firm. Furthermore, Marx argues that Capitalism is not recurring while the prior mentioned process certainly does not seem the same. However, the main points of comparison and contrast between The Prince and Capital remain between the conversations on leadership and the various reactions that mass population may have based on a leader’s actions. Machiavelli and Marx have views that both differ and agree, which will be evident through comparison and contrast of their individual views on the battle between necessity and morality. The two agree that sometimes it is more appropriate to do what is necessary rather than what is morally right. However, the difference between the two is the context in which they address the conflict; Machiavelli does so in giving advice to the leader of a nation while Marx concerns himself with the relationship between owners of production and laborers. Moreover, I intend to compare the actions of Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin with the beliefs of Marx and Machiavelli in an attempt to identify which belief system each identified with during their reign in Soviet Russia.

It is common knowledge that when ruling a nation, one is faced with extremely hard decisions; decisions that the general population could not normally be trusted to make. The fact that one could be trusted to make these decisions for the good of the nation is, of course, the main reason why a leader is placed into power. Machiavelli argues, however, that it is not necessarily the good of the nation of which he is advising on how to preserve, but rather the leader’s control of power over that nation. In other words, Machiavelli’s advice is aimed toward a leader who wants to know how to stay in power. In doing this, Machiavelli addresses the issue of necessity versus morality and maintains that a leader’s first priority should be to maintain his power over a nation. Machiavelli addresses this claim in the chapter titled, “About those factors that cause men, and especially rulers, to be praised or censured.” He states, “…a man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so much that is evil” (The Prince, 47). Here, Machiavelli is saying that if a leader only concerns himself with moral excellence, he will lose his power to due to “evil” outside forces. It is possible that Machiavelli’s claim implies a sense of naivety in the morally excellent leader and that those who are willing to be corrupt in order to hold on to power will seize power over the purely ethical (47). This is merely one of Machiavelli’s many analyses of the contradiction between necessity and morality.

Overall, Machiavelli argues that a leader must know when to be good and when not to be good, and that the proper balance of these elements will help insure a leader’s maintenance of power. Machiavelli states, “So it is necessary for a ruler, if he wants to hold on to power, to learn how not to be good, and to know when it is and when it is not necessary to use this knowledge” (The Prince, 48). Machiavelli is much more self-explanatory with this point than with many others,...
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