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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A guide to gaining and maintaining power
This book was written by the famous Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli in 1531. This book is a classic and I was pleasantly surprised that the content was not dated and the principles translate easily into the modern worlds of business and politics.
The author wrote this book as an instruction guide for governing princes in the 1500's when Italy was divided into...
Published on March 27, 2008 by Steve Burns

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what the big deal is
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is actually on the list of books that are banned by the administration of the prison where I am incarcerated. Naturally, when I got a hold of an illicit copy, I just had to devour it - reading much of it under the cover of night when most C/Os are napping. I didn't see what the big deal was. The introduction helped to set the book in the...
Published 20 months ago by William D. Hastings


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not as men SHOULD act, but as they DO act, August 13, 2003
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This review is from: The Prince (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Machiavelli's immortal treatise on monarchical government, while not necessarily applicable in the strictest of senses today, nevertheless contains many valuable insights pertinent to the modern leader. Machiavelli has gotten a bad rap, and not all of it undeserved, but his work nevertheless contains some extremely valuable information. The likes of Hitler, Napoleon, and Mussolini have counted themselves among Machiavelli's disciples, and the term "Machiavellian" often is synonymous with deceit and evil.
So what is the use of Machiavelli today? After all, the book was written over 400 years ago, in the age of feudalism. Despite its age, Machiavelli's advice is very useful today. One of his best qualities is that he sees people for what they are, not what they should be. Where other philosophers concern themselves with how men should act (in an ideal situation), Machiavelli realizes that, in reality, men will not act as they should, and so his focus is on how men actually do act. If he has an overall pessimistic view of mankind, he is not entirely unjustified.
Of course, not all of Machiavelli's ideas are acceptable in today's world. Machiavelli asserts that the populous is weak, stupid, and easily contented. And though he believes popular support to be extremely important, he believes so only because this condition adds to the power of the monarchy. In today's world of democracy, this doesn't really fit. And his admonitions that the prince use hypocrisy and deceit whenever convenient are a bit hard to swallow. Still, if you REALLY understand what he's saying, it becomes clear that Machiavelli, while condoning these and other vices, says such unlawful practices should be indulged in ONLY when it will benefit the state. In his eyes, the end should justify the means.
In short, Machiavelli's work is a masterpiece of human thinking. We still have much to learn from this old thinker, and do ourselves a great disservice by dismissing his ideas as evil (in fact, his condoning of deceit is exaggerated to some extent). Machiavelli's methods are certainly dated and cruel in many respects, but many of his basic thoughts are very useful in today's world.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amoral Guide for the Strong, February 7, 2007
By 
Steiner (Philadelphia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Prince (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The infamous pamphlet that established the basic strategies for military and city-state conquest for ages. Machiavelli looks to Caesar Borgia as his model of the ideal, calculating militant leader. Machiavelli calls for an appeal to the people through fear and respect, insisting that they must be treated well enough to maintain control. He writes: "Is it better to be loved or feared, or vice versa? I don't doubt that every prince would like to be both; but since it is hard to accommodate these qualities, if you have to make a choice, to be feared is much safer than to be loved. For it is a good general rule about men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers, fearful of danger and greedy for gain."

The Prince is the bible of modern realpolitik. It is a cynical tract containing twenty six guidelines for taking (and maintaining power). Machiavelli supports his arguments with an astonishing depth and breadth of understanding of military history, and this work remains one of the great accounts of military strategy, along with Thucydides and Hobbes.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More often cited than read, August 8, 2002
No one can doubt the lasting significance of The Prince, for it is frequently cited in discussions of modern political theory. The work has been often criticized as malevolent, while its original form has been examined less than closely. Such being the case, Machiavelli's intentions are easily misread. His goal was in fact to offer a practical, realistic guide to governing; it is a sad irony that these pragmatic goals have become something philosophically ethereal in the hands of many critics.
The Prince draws from the past and is at the same time applicable to the future. The author was a statesman of moderate capacity as well as member of the social body, a link between the ruler and the ruled. He was driven by a realism that forsook Platonic ideals of justice and virtue, in favor of efficiency, military strength, and power. For Machiavelli, the ends always justified the means. The state's perpetuity was the sole goal to be sought by the ruler. While it is true that Machiavelli voiced a disdain for men, he did not call for their enslavement or complete subordination to the ruler; in fact, he felt that what was best for the state was best for the people.
One must bear in mind the time in which Machiavelli wrote, which was a time of great upheaval in the Italian states. This lack of stability certainly contributed to the author's commitment to strong, lasting government. Nowhere does he condemn democracy nor worship autocracy; in fact, he clearly implies that the particular conditions of any polity best determine the most fitting type of government. He warns the ruler of dangers both from within and without, and recommends in all matters strength of position. When he counsels that virtues, when excessive, can weaken the state, he does not endorse tyranny.
One finds simplicity alongside complexity in this book. Just as he encourages efficiency in the ruler, Machiavelli writes directly, never indulging in philosophical digressions. He defines the state and how it comes to be, as well as the manners by which a prince accedes to power. He then shifts to the practice of warfare, the most important activity of a state, complemented with advice on maintaining internal stability. Finally, he speaks of Italy's present troubles, making clear that it is his ambition in writing this work to return stability to his homeland and protect its future from chaotic affairs.
The Prince is a pioneering work of political science. It is distinguished by Machiavelli's employment of history as a source of applicable knowledge. Machiavelli had no idealistic goals in mind when he wrote The Prince. He was successful in that, although controversial and often misinterpreted, his guide is still a source for knowledge as well as action.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Paying More for Less, January 22, 2009
By 
Charles D. Gunnoe (Grand Rapids, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is a reprint of the popular George Bull translation of the Prince without any introductory material. Why readers would prefer to shell out $10.00 for this edition when the same translation is available for $7.00 with an introduction by Anthony Grafton and a useful glossary is a mystery. Unless you have a large wallet and especially small pockets (it is a small format paperback), this edition is not for you. The other Penguin edition (0140449159) is highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Political Darwinism - Before Darwin - in Machiavelli's "The Prince", March 15, 2013
This review is from: The Prince (Paperback)
(This review is based on the 1977 Norton Critical Edition, translated and edited by Robert M. Adams, and including backgrounds and critical essays.)

Admittedly, it is probably anachronistically inappropriate as it might be to review "The Prince" from a Darwinian perspective, since this provocative 73-page "instructional manual on proper governance" was written and published nearly 300 years before Charles Darwin's birth. Yet, as an avalanche of scholarly work has striven to determine whether "The Prince" deserves to be stigmatized or not as the originator of the connotation of "Machiavellianism" as sinister, unscrupulous, and manipulative political ambition, it struck me that, somewhat unknowingly, Machiavelli was promoting a type of Political Darwinism to justify, or more probably explain, sometimes shockingly questionable methods of seizing and holding power. In other words, given the milieu that Machiavelli lived in and wrote about, 16thh century Italy as fragmented, belligerent city-states, one could interpret "The Prince" as a dispassionate, clinical description of things you must inevitably do to insure political survival.

For example toward the beginning of "The Prince", Machiavelli champions the use of colonists over armies to retain newly-won territories because they are easier and cheaper to placate, control, and, in extreme circumstances, exterminate. After all, as in natural evolution, political evolution would demand that to keep your place of dominance, you have to eliminate the competition by reward or permanent punishment ("And in this connection it should be remarked that men ought either to be caressed or destroyed, since they will seek revenge for minor hurts but will not be able to revenge major ones. Any harm you do to a man should be done in such a way that you need not fear his revenge.) Furthermore, as in natural evolution, fighting and war are necessary and inevitable to maintain your political position; however, one must fight and defeat challengers early before they become too much of a threat.

As another example, there are many instances in nature where it is easier for an animal to survive and thrive by stealing or wresting something (such as food, mates, or herd leadership) away from another animal rather than starting from scratch. "The Prince" applies this action to kingdoms as well ("Men almost always prefer to walk in paths marked out by others and pattern their actions through imitation") by stating it is easier to conquer and rule an existing kingdom, used to subjugation and external rule, than trying to set up a new kingdom with people too used to autonomy and freedom. It takes an exceptionally fit, confident, and strong prince to make a new order work out.

Just as active fighting rather than passive hierarchy improves your chances for natural survival, "The Prince" states this evolutionary tenet applies to rulers. Hereditary rulers depend on the often fickle approval of their subjects for their position, whereas rulers who "come up the hard way" depend on their own innate hardiness and strength to stay in power. Survival of the (politically) fittest depends on what you bring to the table, not what has been arbitrarily handed to you.

When fighting for dominance, "The Prince" acknowledges that, like in the natural world, cruelty in the political world sometimes inevitable and necessary. Such a statement sounds monstrous, but we often here of cruel animal actions (such as infanticide) performed to perpetuate the animal's genetic line. The cruelty is not performed gratuitously or continually, but strategically. So it is in using cruelty to seize power - "Cruelty can be described as well used (if it's permissible to say good words about something which is evil in itself) when it is performed all at once, for reasons of self-preservation; and when the acts are not repeated after that, but rather are turned as much as possible to the advantage of the subjects."

Indeed, even in nature, dominant animals generally do not keep their position by cruelly oppressing the members they lead. Instead, of course, they provide them with food and protection from enemies from other species, and from their own kind who may want to take away their group members, even if the usurpers lurk within the group itself. "The Prince" mirrors this evolutionary reality with this observation: "The man who becomes prince with the help of the nobles has more trouble holding onto his power than the man who rises with the aid of the people, because as prince he is surrounded by many who think themselves his equals, and for this reason he cannot give orders or manage his agents as he would like. But the man who becomes prince by popular favor reaches the pinnacle alone, and finds no one around him, or very few, who are not prepared to take orders."

"The Prince" unapologetically argues that a ruler's primary occupation should be war and defense, even during peacetime. Again this seems morally repugnant, but actually makes logical and evolutionary sense. All animals constantly worry about how to defend themselves, and possibly others. They must be vigilant and prepared, especially a herd or pack leader. So why not a political ruler? "He must never idle away his days of peace, but vigorously make capital that will pay off in times of adversity; thus, when fortune changes, it will find him in a position to resist"

"The Prince" offers other logically and evolutionarily sensible (if, again, unconscionable) pieces of advice: "I don't doubt that every prince would like to be both [feared and loved]; but since it is hard to accommodate these qualities, if you have to make a choice, to be feared is much safer than to be loved.", "Since a prince must know how to use the character of beasts, he should pick for imitation the fox and the lion. As the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves, you have to be a fox in order to be wary of traps, and a lion to overawe the wolves." "Thus a prudent prince cannot and should not keep his word when to do so would go against his interest, or when the reasons that made him pledge it no longer apply. Doubtless if all men were good, this rule would be bad; but since they are a sad lot, and keep no faith with you, you in your turn are under no obligation to keep it with them." "I believe further that a prince will be fortunate who adjusts his behavior to the temper of the times, and on the other hand will be unfortunate when his behavior is not well attuned to the times. In addition, Adams's translation emphasizes the multiple meanings of the Italian word "virtứ" in the text, stating that it usually does NOT mean conventional virtue, but other admired qualities such as strength, cunning, charisma, and resolve. Adams argues that "virtue" and "vice" are not absolute moral attributes; "...Machiavelli is in effect declaring that the moral qualities of a prince are virtues or vices only as they help or hinder his political functioning."

My "Political Darwinism" thesis, of course, will not resolve the "Is Machiavellianism truly bad or not?" controversy for religious or moral types. However, I agree with those who argue that Machiavelli was not passing moral judgment upon his "princely advice", but rather regarded it as a sometimes regretful but necessary evil needed to survive in and rule in a far from perfect world.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what the big deal is, November 26, 2012
This review is from: The Prince (Paperback)
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is actually on the list of books that are banned by the administration of the prison where I am incarcerated. Naturally, when I got a hold of an illicit copy, I just had to devour it - reading much of it under the cover of night when most C/Os are napping. I didn't see what the big deal was. The introduction helped to set the book in the proper historical context in which it was written, and I could see how the text could be construed as salacious. However, I found it to be less revolutionary than it was an objective and detached assessment of what the author perceived to be the best way to consolidate and keep hold of power once that ruling position has been attained. I can understand how his principles can be applied to various aspects of people's lives, and why some politicians reference it like their Bible, but I suppose I was expecting something more scandalous.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Prince vs. Bad Prince, June 29, 2012
This review is from: The Prince (Paperback)
Surrounding controversy not withstanding, The Prince at its core is a dichotomous text which presents two paths to achieve leadership success in this lifetime. I did not interpret The Prince as literal guide to prosperity as a whole, but rather broke it down into two polarized components, one being virtue and the other tyranny. Each method offers a legitimate chance at success, yet which provides a solid foundation for lasting personal achievement?

Machiavelli states in Chapter 6: "Princes who rise to power through their own virtue rather than luck tend to have a hard time rising to the top, but once they reach the top they are very secure in their position." This is in contrast to a Prince who rises to power through wickedness, who may seize power with ease, but falls fast and hard as his regime is built upon a house of cards. The former is clearly the greater of the two, yet both must be taken into account for a realistic portrayal into how politics are played out, rather than how they *should* be played out.

The Prince is not for simpletons who need to view the world through rose-tinted glasses, nor is it for the morally decrepit who elicit a message of destruction. It is for the discerning reader who is able to view it as an objective study into political morality.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When a name becomes a pejorative adjective..., March 26, 2010
This review is from: The Prince (Paperback)
"Machiavellian" - not normally considered a term of approbation. There are numerous editions of this classic book on the use of political power, written in the 16th Century. In my edition, which I first purchased and read over 40 years ago, there is an introduction by Christian Gauss. In it, he says: "On the strength of a famous essay of Macaulay's, the notion had become fairly widespread that the devil himself had become familiarly known as the Old Nick only because Niccolo had been Machiavelli's first name." Machiavelli based his book on what seems to be an eminently sensible proposition: instead of describing an ideal world or society, why not describe political power in the context of the real world, shorn of moral considerations. He best formulated this premise in chapter 15, on "Of the Things for which Men, and Especially Princes, are Praised or Blamed," when he says: "Therefore it is necessary for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case."

Machiavelli was a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci, and lived at a time when the Popes, like Alexander VI, openly fathered children, despite that much tattered vow of chastity. On my recent re-read, the classic and timeless nature of Machiavelli's insights was confirmed. Various passages could have tumbled out of today's headlines: "Thus it came about that King Charles of France was allowed to take Italy without the slightest trouble, and those who said that it was owing to our sins..." Sounds like Pat Robertson pontificating about the reasons for 9-11, or the Haiti earthquake - it was God's wrath at our sins! There are substantial passages dedicated to the quality and type of soldiers that fight on behalf of your country. Consider: "The mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous, and if any one supports his state by the arms of mercenaries, he will never stand firm or sure..." And now America, due to the repeal of the draft, has an increasing chasm between the few that fight its wars, and the many who rest comfortably at home; and there is also an increasing reliance on foreigners in our military, serving in the hopes of obtaining citizenship, as well as a large number of mercenaries, epitomized by the infamous Blackwater Group. And how does this sound for a description of the "nobility" of Wall Street utilizing the political system, regardless of political party: "for when the nobility see that they are unable to resist the people they unite in exalting one of their number and creating him prince, so as to be able to carry out their own designs under the shadow of his authority."

"The Prince" is a short book, barely a hundred pages, in my edition, without the introduction. It is not a particularly easy read, for it is often a string of aphorisms that need to be considered and digested, all placed against a background of historical examples that most Americans are not familiar with, like the internecine struggles of Italy at the time, the various sieges of Syracuse (and we're not talking New York!), and the rule of Darius. In general though, Machiavelli's judgments have withstood the test of time. And the book is "choppy," as the author jumps from one topic to the other. Some of his assessments are questionable. Consider: "A prince is further esteemed when he is a true friend or a true enemy, when, that is, he declares himself without reserve in favor of some one or against another. This policy is always more useful than remaining neutral." Yet we have witnessed the enormous power and influence certain politicians have achieved by remaining in that seeming "neutral" position, as the "swing vote", as recently exemplified in the effort to pass comprehensive health care reform. Machiavelli concludes his book with a polemic of exhortation, urging that Italy be "liberated from the barbarians." The chapter is so anomalous with the rest of the work that some have proposed that it was added by others after his death.

Finally, I liked the balance that he struck between fortune (a/k/a dumb blind luck) and our ability to affect our fate: "Nevertheless, that our free will may not be altogether extinguished, I think it may be true that fortune is the ruler of half our actions, but that she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us."

Overall, on the re-read, 4-stars.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On Machiavelli's The Prince, January 5, 2009
The work is highly recommended to anyone hoping to achieve an understanding of the modern mind and how medieval precepts remain in our collective political unconscious. A work on modern statesmanship, the city-state & the nation state era continues, The Prince's tactics have been co-opted in the name of evil by Communists and others but they are really just an extension of standard goodly practice of his day. Also strict leadership remains a legitimate style under the which love & respect are in a logical balance. This is contrary to the popularity contests which undermine modern Western Statesmanship.

Among his essentials for well executed statesmanship are prioritisation, decisiveness, communication & strength all of which have fallen out of favour in The West today, replaced respectively by welfare, sustainability, propaganda & consensus, which all typify non-leadership. The Machiavellian style emphasizes such common sense principles as the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, a remarkeable deviation from the noblesse oblige of his generaion, and the overarching importance of national unity & security.

His Prince executes his strict care or tough love based on principle and concern without which the government will sufer a loss of faith from its citizenry. Machiavelli proves himself astute in these cases. His work is quite foresightful.

My deeper impression is that this volume both beckons for the restoration of Roman era greatness which would be attempted later as well as lays the foundation for what would become the nature of centralism in governance today, sometimes mis-labelled federalism. Certainly he is correct in the challenge between fear, love & loathing in leadership. Look at his ideas as indicatve of traditions from Scripture and the family model as well as monarchy & republic. Study of his ideology can be applied at all levels for effective administration.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book, September 6, 2007
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This review is from: The Prince (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This book is for serious philosophical readers.

Machiavelli broke down a raw and ruthless political idea. I read the Art of War before this book, and they are similar. However, Machiavelli is much more aggressive. If you're reading this book for entertainment, it can be dry at times. Nonetheless, the information in this book is timeless, and should be an enjoyment for interested readers only.
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The Prince (Penguin Classics)
The Prince (Penguin Classics) by Niccolò Machiavelli (Paperback - February 4, 2003)
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