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The Prince and The Discourses 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0075535775
ISBN-10: 0075535777
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian politician, diplomat, founding father of political science, and author of the preeminent political treatise, The Prince. Born in Florence, Italy, Machiavelli held many government posts over his lifetime and often took leading roles in important diplomatic missions. During his time visiting other countries and nation states, Machiavelli was exposed to the politics of figures like Ceasare Borgia and King Louis XII, experiences which would inform his writings on state-building and politics. Machiavelli s political career came to an abrupt end when the Medici overthrew Florence, and he was held as a prisoner under the new regime. Tortured for a short time, he was released without admitting to any crime or treason. At this point, Machiavelli retired and turned to intellectual and philosophical pursuits, producing his two major works, The Prince and Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy. He died in 1527 at the age of 58.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library College
  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 1 edition (August 1, 1950)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0075535777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0075535775
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 1 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Many people have never read anything by Machiavelli except The Prince, and they assume that's all they need to know about his writings. But The Prince is the equivalent of Marx's Communist Manifesto--Machiavelli's real political treatise is The Discourses, just as Marx's was Das Kapital.

You have to understand that The Prince was a piece he wrote in an effort to get a job with a particular ruler. And while the Prince is much more pithy and quotable than the Discourses, it's in the Discourses that you'll find where his real sympathies lay. Here are some quotes from the Discourses:

"Now in a well-ordered republic it should never be necessary to resort to extra-constitutional measures" (ch. XXXIV, p. 203 in this edition)

"...there can be no worse example in a republic than to make a law and not to observe it" (ch. XLV, p. 229)

"...if we compare the faults of a people with those of princes, we shall find the people vastly superior in all that is good and glorious." (ch. LVIII, p. 264)

The Discourses talks all about politics and governing, and it makes you want to go out and rule a country! Very cool. At times he betrays an attitude that's almost modern, and maybe that's part of why he was vilified in his day. At other times he sounds strangely archaic, but that's hardly surprising for a fifteenth-century Italian.

That said, this translation of the Prince is very mediocre, and for that I give the book four stars instead of five. It talks a lot about calumnies, for instance, which is unsettling if you don't happen to know what a calumny is before picking up the book. And it uses "contemn" as a verb, which is also archaic (we still use the noun--contempt--but not the verb!).
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Format: Paperback
"The authentic interpreter of Machiavelli," wrote Lord Acton, "is the whole of later history." Thus, Bill Clinton to his peril, ignored Machiavelli's advice: "Men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared." Nearly 500 years ago, Machiavelli set out to teach the lessons of power. And his teachings remain as valid in our day as in his own. Want to size up a ruler's competence? Then "look at the men he has about him." Want help in making hard decisions? Consult your advisors, deliberate privately, and then stick to your decision. It was Machiavelli who first described the fundamental law of public relations: "Everybody sees what you apear to be, few feel what you are." Even those who want nothing to do with executive authority will profit greatly by learning the truth about how such power is actually gained and used. Above all, Machiavelli urges those who must deal with the real world to remain clear-eyed about its dangers: It is necessary for a prince, he warns, to "learn how not to be good," and to sometimes use this knowledge in effective defense against ruthless enemies. This is admittedly strong stuff for many idealistic readers. But those who reject Machiavelli's advice do so either in ignorance of the ways power is actually used, or in a well-intentioned but doomed attempt to create a Utopia populated not by men but angels.
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Format: Paperback
In the course of my political science training, I studied at great length the modern idea of realpolitik. In that study I came to realise that it was somewhat incomplete, without the companionship of 'The Prince', by Niccolo Machiavelli, a Florentine governmental official in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. 'The Prince' is an oft quoted, oft mis-quoted work, used as the philosophical underpinning for much of what is considered both pragmatic and wrong in politics today. To describe someone as being Machiavellian is to attribute to the person ruthless ambition, craftiness and merciless political tactics. Being believed to be Machiavellian is generally politically incorrect. Being Machiavellian, alas, can often be politically expedient.

Machiavelli based his work in 'The Prince' upon his basic understanding of human nature. He held that people are motivated by fear and envy, by novelty, by desire for wealth, power and security, and by a hatred of restriction. In the Italy in which he was writing, democracy was an un-implemented Greek philosophical idea, not a political structure with a history of success; thus, one person's power usually involved the limitation of another person's power in an autocratic way.

Machiavelli did not see this as a permanent or natural state of being -- in fact, he felt that, during his age, human nature had been corrupted and reduced from a loftier nobility achieved during the golden ages of Greece and Rome. He decided that it was the corrupting influence of Christianity that had reduced human nature, by its exaltation of meekness, humility, and otherworldliness.
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For any one and every one who can read! Machiavelli wrote for all people who know how to read and are not convinced that Machiavelli wrote only for an special reading group. His attempts to reveal the times of the history of the City of Florence and his experience as the Secretary for the City of Florence to other European countries reveals the complexity of the time. His love for Florence was similar to the love of a parent for a special child.. he always wanted the best for Florence when Florence seemed to more attracted to the display and acquisition of wealth and power.

"The Discourses" uses the history of Livy to illustrate the practices in military and political governance that made Rome and Italy at that time, a World Power. Machiavelli does not totally advocate the practices of early Rome but shows through the first history written about that time and place by Livy, what practices were advisable and which would be doubtful if used in Florence to enhance and improve the plans of Florence in other conquests and protection of the City of Florence from other interests. Again, any one who can read and has the time, then "The Discourses" is a readable book for any and all.
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