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Machaivelli - Lesson Summary

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Machiavelli was a ruthlessly pragmatic thinker who argued that the ends justify the means. Be they ethical or unethical, all means are acceptable in politics so long as they help the rulers achieve their political goals. Thinking that politics should be distinct from ethics and morality, he advised the rulers to govern their principalities through fear and force.

Machiavelli’s political thought should be assessed in the context of the unification of Italy and the restoration of the republican glory of classical Rome.
The experience that Machiavelli gain during his military and diplomatic mission was the basis of much of his political thought. “The Prince”, of Machiavelli became the bible of statecraft and continue to inspire the diplomatic exchanges and politics even today.

Machiavelli presents a new theory of politics. Politics for him is about the preservation and the security of the state, which would ensure the safety and the welfare of its people. In the prince, he provides all the advice to the ruler necessary to preserve and defend his rule or principalities and thereby ensuring the welfare of the people.

Men in politics are like wolves whom a prince could tackle by combining the virtue of a lion and fox (Machiavelli). According to Machiavelli, the prince must combine the virtue of a lion by being bold, courageous, and ruthless with the virtue of a fox by being cunning or have the foresight to preempt the deceptions and traps set by others.

Considering the wickedness of the men, Machiavelli regarded violence as inevitable and even justified to secure the state. However such use of force must be reasonable.

Machiavelli makes a difference between the appearance and the actual nature of the prince. He wanted the king to have the appearance of a loving and caring ruler than a ruthless one. It makes him trustworthy and commands obedience from the people. However if the situation demands the prince or he ruler to use violence ruthlessly, he should not hesitate.

In the long run, it is only good for the ruler and the principalities if he is feared than loved. According to Machiavelli, if a ruler has to choose between being loved or being feared, he should prefer being feared than loved, but should not be hated or despised by the people.



Machiavelli regarded an individual’s freedom as the freedom to have possessions or property and a family. He wanted the rulers to respect such liberties of the citizens for the sustenance of their own rule. Each class of citizens could take full participation in the economic and political life of the state if their possessions and families are safe and secured from both internal and external usurpation. Thus, for Machiavelli, citizens, if their family and property are secured, could be the greatest defender of republic and freedom.