Machiavelli vs Islamic Political Thought
Niccolo Machiavelli was a political realist. He thought there were certain skills and characteristics needed to become a political ruler. In his work, The Prince, Machiavelli gives advice on how to be a successful prince, or ruler. "Successful" is partly based on how powerful a ruler was during his lifetime (reign), but largely based on how much the prince affected the lives, through laws or societal norms, of future generations. Machiavelli was mainly interested in attaining and keeping political power. He believed people were inherently selfish and would, by nature, not respect the law or work for the common good, without civic virtues. The only way to control' these human urges was to instill national pride and mutual respect for all citizens of a state. The difference in Machiavellian thought, up to this point in history, from other philosophers was he believed political authority was no longer justified by religious or spiritual doctrines. Although Machiavelli believed this to be true, he still knew it was important for citizens to maintain a commitment for the common good, through national pride and respect. Another aspect of differing thought up to this point in time was Machiavelli knew promoting civic virtue in citizens needed to be coupled with the pursuit of individual liberty.
Machiavelli, in his writings, talks about several different forms of government. Specifically, monarchies, aristocracies, and democracies. He was able to pick apart monarchies, establishing the difference between new' and old monarchies. The new monarchies are the hard ones to maintain, because people are not susceptible to change, in fact they almost revolt against it, unless the new ruler can make good on his word and keep his promises. Machiavelli's preferred form of government was the republic. A republic is a mixing of the three governments aforementioned. Having the government made up of the nobles, the elite, and the commoners establishes a set of checks and balances against one another. No one, particular group will be able to take control of the state again. And in fact, the people (citizens) tend to have more leverage than any other faction. Machiavelli knew people were mainly concerned about their property and well being of their family. He also knew the government's job was to protect both, in addition to helping the people prosper and follow their "hearts," if you will. Machiavelli believed only certain people could become rulers, because it took a special sort of person. He said rulers are not bound by moral constraints or social norms. The prince does not have to uphold all the values expected of their citizens. While this is true, it is also true the ruler must, at all times in the public eye, portray all of the important civic virtues displayed in all the citizens. If the people believe the ruler is falsifying his beliefs, they will turn. However, when the time comes to make a decision outside the realm of citizen knowledge, a ruler must be ruthless and prepared to do ANYTHING IT TAKES to ensure the state's prosperity. If this means the ruler has to lie or kill, he will. This explains why only certain people can be rulers. One of Machiavelli's favorite examples of effective rulers is Cesare Borgia. Borgia was elected ruler, after his father was selected as pope. Borgia knew how to acquire respect from his citizens through fear and control. He also gave the people a "good government" and brought peace and prosperity. The question always arises, though, about what to do with the dissenters, or rebels of a group. Borgia took care of this by hiring an enforcer. The enforcer was in charge of handling law-breakers, usually by death. The enforcer was a cruel man and invoked fear in the citizens. Borgia did not want his people to associate him with the enforcer, so he killed him. But he didn't just kill him; he put him in the town square cut in half to show people he was serious. The...
References: Delue, Steven M. Political Thinking, Political Theory, and Civil Society.
Longman Publishing: 2002.
Johnston, Ian. Lecture on Machiavelli 's The Prince. February 2002,
Malaspina University: Retrieved from the World Wide Web on
February 24, 2005, http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/introser/-machiavelli.html
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