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The Prince (Penguin Classics) Reissue Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 816 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 858-1000012436
ISBN-10: 0140449159
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Lorenzo de' Medici seized control of the Florentine Republic in 1512, he summarily fired the Secretary to the Second Chancery of the Signoria and set in motion a fundamental change in the way we think about politics. The person who held the aforementioned office with the tongue-twisting title was none other than Niccolò Machiavelli, who, suddenly finding himself out of a job after 14 years of patriotic service, followed the career trajectory of many modern politicians into punditry. Unable to become an on-air political analyst for a television network, he only wrote a book. But what a book The Prince is. Its essential contribution to modern political thought lies in Machiavelli's assertion of the then revolutionary idea that theological and moral imperatives have no place in the political arena. "It must be understood," Machiavelli avers, "that a prince ... cannot observe all of those virtues for which men are reputed good, because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state." With just a little imagination, readers can discern parallels between a 16th-century principality and a 20th-century presidency. --Tim Hogan --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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“[Machiavelli] can still engage our attention with remarkable immediacy, and this cannot be explained solely by the appeal of his ironic observations on human behaviour. Perhaps the most important thing is the way he can compel us to reflect on our own priorities and the reasoning behind them; it is this intrusion into our own defenses that makes reading him an intriguing experience. As a scientific exponent of the political art Machiavelli may have had few followers; it is as a provocative rhetorician that he has had his real impact on history.” –from the Introduction by Dominic Baker-Smith
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449150
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (816 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Simons VINE VOICE on November 7, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The idea of "reviewing" this is more than a little silly -- it's arguably the most influential non-religious work of all time -- but I thought a few comments & historical notes might still be worthwhile.

"The Prince" was essentially the first work of political realism in Western thought -- the first work of Western political philosophy that concerned itself not with the ideal government (as Plato had done in his _Republic_) but with the practical realities of getting and holding power. To describe the impact and influence of that willingness, that first notion that conventional morality might not be the best guide to success, would be as impossible a task as trying to summarize the influence of Galileo. Napoleon is rumored to have written extensive annotations to this book; Stalin allegedly kept a copy on his nightstand. Half of Shakespeare's villains (Iago, Richard III, etc.) derive their character in whole or part from this text.

Most of this book is extraordinarily controversial, even today, yet still fundamentally difficult to argue against; there's a reason the Catholic Church kept it on the _Index Librorum Prohibitorum_ for centuries. If you're looking for food for thought, it's here.

This particular kindle edition is fairly good; the text is cleanly presented with few typographical or scanning errors, and the translator has clearly made a significant effort to present the text as accurately as possible in a modern translation, with several footnotes detailing possible alternate translations of particular words, etc.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are two good reasons to read Machiavelli's classic, "The Prince."
First, so you'll know what everyone is referring to when you come across the adjective "machiavellian" in news stories or other media. This adjective has become so commonplace (and overused) it is almost a cliche. Also, most who use it have never read this letter from Machiavelli, a Rennaisance courtier to his Prince (written from prison), but they insist on peppering writings with this noun turned adjective so much that as a matter of clearly understanding what is meant by the term, famiality with this brief treatise is helpful.
Second, this book does describe most (not all) power situations very well. From politics to corporations to most settings where advancement, influence and control exist, Machiavelli's observations and rules apply.
You will also discover that Machiavelli was not as evil as he is understood to be in popular thought. What he was doing was describing the rules of the game that have existed and always will exist for many situations involving selfish humans in competition. Machiavelli's rules are neither good nor bad in themselves -- they describe a process. What is good or bad is how those who master Machiavelli's rules use their power and position, in a society that tempers actions according to law and basic Judeo-Christian principals. When those principals do not exist (as in Nazi Germany, the Middle Ages or under Communism, or by those who refuse to live by these constraints), Machiavelli's rules take on their demonic and evil cloak; usually because they serve demonic and evil ends. In societies where positive constraints exist, for example the U.S. political system, Machiavellian behavior can produce excellent results.
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16 Comments 686 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This review is of the (currently free) Kindle edition of The Prince.

As others have stated at much greater length and with far greater eloquence, this is one of the most important books of political thought and philosophy ever written, and a truly timeless classic. As such, the fact that it's available for free on Kindle makes this a terrific deal, worth every single penny and many more. All the usual conveniences of Kindle applies here: very fast to download via Whispernet, the handiness of being able to annotate and highlight important passages, bookmarking pages you want to reference again later, etc. The slickness of the Kindle format and capabilities plus the inherit worthiness of the book itself easily nets 4 stars.

It's been about forever since I last read The Prince, plus I don't really know anything about Italian, so I'm not really fit to talk about the quality of the translation. Suffice it to say that it's a fairly easy book to read and make sense of, but again I can't speak to how true this particular edition is to its source material.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this edition of The Prince that need to be mentioned, and which in the end detract a little from the overall score. The first and biggest is in the formatting of the book. In short, it looks like a plain-text notepad file converted into a Kindle book; there's no navigable Table of Contents or chapter breaks as with most commercial Kindle books, and the book itself flows from the title page almost directly into the background about Machiavelli and then from there straight into The Prince itself, with scarcely a break in the text to mark the transition.
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