Summary of Machiavelli’s The Qualities of Being a Prince
The Qualities of Being a Prince is black and white guide to success as a ruler, using the arts of war cunning, and deception. Machiavelli lived in Italy during the era of city-states and constant change in leadership, leading to his illustrative essay on how to gain, and keep, a power position. This guide is epitome of ‘ends justifying means’ thinking, and would be analyzed and followed for years after its writer died. The Qualities of a Prince outlined in the text are as follows: being skilled and informed on military matters (“a prince… must not have any object… but war” p27), being miserly (“a prince… should… not worry about being called a miser” p41), being feared (“make himself feared… to avoid hatred p45), knowing how not to keep promises (“princes who have accomplished great deeds are those who have cared little for keeping their promises, and who have known how to manipulate the minds of men” p46), and how to avoid being hated/ despised (“avoid being hated or despised… is a necessary matter” p49). All of these qualities have an opposing trait that shows up in ineffective leaders. These guidelines, such as “being disarmed makes you despised” (to counter the stress on warfare), show Machiavelli’s linear thinking process. This makes it easy to interpret his underlying advice. Machiavelli’s more transparent rules of prince-hood can be found through inferring and simplifying his advice. He says to “train himself more than in time of war” (p38), leading to the assumption that keeping fit, diligent, and aware are all valued in a prince. Machiavelli’s gives advice that a prince “does not lose control of himself”, shows the requirement of being rational and emotionally dis-involved. Machiavelli’s essay on his perceived qualities of a successful ruler can illuminate both the optimal qualities of a ruler of that time, and be adjusted to fit a modern prince....
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