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The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women Paperback – March 9, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Dell; First Edition edition (March 9, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440508320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440508328
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Can a woman's version of The Prince actually work?

There's a sidelong sensibility at work in this post-feminist analog to the Renaissance's great work of strategy. Harriet Rubin urges women to triumph by turning their enemies into allies and their fear into power; by enlarging their sphere rather than defending it; and by learning to best instead of win.

But there's a delicate wryness to the art of balancing tensions to one's advantage. One of the most telling examples is that of Sun Tzu, who bet the emperor he could turn the twelve royal concubines into fierce warriors, but was bested by the concubines, who simply giggled when he barked orders at them. Modern women may find interpreting this a challenge, but an entertaining one. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

How can women achieve power? Rubin, founder of Doubleday's imprint Currency, explains the strategies, tactics, and weapons women should use to reach their goals. The main strategy is not to play by the rules but to change the game. Eighteen practical tactics are listed and explained; for example, "reduce the conflict to its bare essentials." Weapons include tears, breasts, and jewels. Rubin's ideas are illustrated using historical figures such as Joan of Arc and Gandhi. She posits that women must go after what they truly want?if they believe they are invincible, others will believe it as well?and concludes that peace is the recognition of what cannot be controlled. Unfortunately, Rubin's work is full of simplistic statements and generalizations without clarification or substantiation, e.g., "men are afraid of women." An optional purchase for large self-help collections.?Janet Clapp, Kingston P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
To paraphrase another reader, as a woman and an executive I don't think lies and manipulation are good policy. But that reader and I must have read a different book. The Princessa's advice is quite the opposite: Rubin urges women to be moral, honest and thoughtful. Not to get attached to the outcome to the expense of one's character; and to resist evil. I've had the book for two years. I go back to it frequently, when I feel I'm doing something wrong and can't place my finger on it, when I need a boost, when I need to take a wider view.
I found it easier to forget Machiavelli when reading Rubin: the Princessa, while taking the Prince as a starting point, is not in any way a "reading" of the classic text, nor even a variation. It is an attempt to counter its influence amongst would-be movers and shakers, who, whatever Machiavelli's ironic intention, take his "screw them to rule" advice as gospel.
I found her examples illuminating; given the size of the book, I couldn't expect a detailed dissertation on each character she chooses as a role model - if you want to know Gandhi in shades of grey, read a biography of Gandhi; if you want inspiration from his essential strategy in getting the British to "quit India" without resorting to violence, then you will find it, alongside many other sketches.
This book is not a replacements for our own instincts and learning, nor for more sustained arguments on women and the role of the feminine, rather it encourages us to look at prevailing orthodoxy, and see how this orthodoxy has failed women. For my money, Rubin gets it right - not everywhere, but in the main. And her chapters on power anorexy and tension hit the mark particularly.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
While reading The Princessa, I found certain ideas about power made me very uncomfortable, which is usually a sign that something is hitting a nerve. I absolutely adored this little book, and like another reader, keep picking it up to go over pieces of it. Obviously, you can't please all of the people all of the time, but I'm amazed at the vehemence with which certain reviews wrote. I thought Rubin's expression of ideas was fascinating, and I think she's a fine writer. I also liked the manner in which she presented these ideas about women and power; like a myth, like a story, like a fairy tale. Seductive but deadly.
I'd save my griping for the drivel John Gray writes; I mean, how many times is he going back to his word processor to "fix up" Mars and Venus?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I very much enjoyed reading this book and keep picking it up again and again. It lifts my spirits. I gives me the feeling that I'm right about what I believe and that deceit and hatred is not necessary to get what you want.
It's about combining love and war, that they are not opposites, but complement each other, and that your allowing your emotions to be present in everything you do can actually help and not hinder you. It suggests that you can draw on your love to tap your own energy and that you can succeed by loving people, by helping them, by connecting to them, and turning enemies into allies.
This book describes and explains these ideas beautifully. You still have to make them your own and see how to actually apply these concepts yourself, but I think that's the beauty of it. You succeed because you're you, with your own beliefs, strength' and weeknesses, and they all come together. What a concept!!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Power is one of those areas where writers have looked at the question from a male perspective or a unisex one that seems to be primarily male. To conceive of a book about women grasping and using power was a novel idea that quickly attracted my attention when the book first came out.
I have had the pleasure of sharing this book with many women in business and later discussing the book with them. Clearly, the part of the book where Rubin argues that women should act like women in gaining and using power is very controversial with some women.
The most extreme example of this point in dividing women readers I know is the advice to cry in front of men. Many women feel like this will cost them power, rather than gain them power. Others want to play the game like a man, and don't want to remind men that they are women. Other women feel that they should cry if they feel like it. Why shouldn't they?
So, one of the interesting aspects of this book is that it helps the reader (female or male) to understand more about her or his assumptions about power. My experience is that coming to grips with assumptions is the essential first step to making progress, in this case towards more effective uses of power.
A fascinating aspect of the book is that there are so few female historial characters for Rubin to draw on. Though each one is full of useful insights. I only wish there could have been more.
An argument that Rubin makes is that many men would like women to take charge more. That makes sense to me. Why should women always hang back to see what the men want to do? Certainly, in our company the women who have done best are those who have taken charge.
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