This short volume is intended as a guide for any venturing power. While many of the historic examples may prove to be out of date for relation to a hi...moreThis short volume is intended as a guide for any venturing power. While many of the historic examples may prove to be out of date for relation to a high-tech consumer-based democracy, the understanding of human nature as it relates to those in power as explained by Machiavelli is still quite valuable, and despite this text being written nearly 500 years ago(Machiavelli wrote Il Prince in 1513), through the reading one who has a sense of modern history can still draw loose parallels.
His contention that principalities are held longer and at greater ease by those leaders who have created their social and political foundations before taking power caused me to think of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's. This event marked the creation of the largest collectivist society in modern industrial history, and may have succeeded had it not been crushed from aid from without to Franco. The great advantage to the populous at the time of the revolution was that anarchist and socialist doctrine had long been established and understood through education and propaganda. Although not a direct parallel to how an individual takes power, the conclusion remains that the laying of a proper foundation for any movement, mass or oligarchy, is highly beneficial.
Also he discusses three ways of maintaining a newly acquired territory. His assertion that to "dismantle" or "raze to the ground" this new acquisition as the best means of keeping it reminded me instantly of Vietnam, where the country was destroyed as per American military policy. Also his asserting that to reside there as another means of control brings to mind American expansions of military complexes throughout the world, most notably in Central America, most recently Colombia. His discourse on the uselessness of mercenaries also caused me to think of Blackwater in Iraq.
The work often condones harsh measures against enemies of the prince-to-be. His views however are based on cold historical facts of how dominions are retained, such as the killing of an entire lineage to secure ones own position against future heirs making a claim to the throne. He also condones force against small sects of the population, "and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled." He continues, "one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed."
Although he suggests these methods, he also discusses that it is far more pertinent to be feared then hated, and that a prince should take measures to gain favor with a majority, only injuring those whom he deems necessary, and always based on just motives, such as securing the peace which is mentioned often.
The writing style is very compact, giving most chapters just a few pages, yet always coming to a worthy point, and giving sufficient even detailed information on the chapter's topic.
"Just as those who draw landscapes place themselves below in the plain to contemplate the nature of the mountains and of lofty places, and in order to contemplate the plains place themselves upon high mountains, even so to understand the nature of the people it needs to be a prince, and to understand that of princes it needs to be of the people."(less)