Sunday, August 9, 2009

Review: The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

genre: non-fiction, political strategy
rating: how do you rate a classic? 4/5?

The Prince is written as a little handbook given by a wise man to an aspiring prince. Machiavelli uses this format to discuss matters of state and politics - mainly, how you get to be in power in the first place and how to keep your power once you've gotten it.

It's pretty amazing, how chock full of stuff this tiny book is. I found myself reading paragraph after paragraph aloud to my militarily savvy husband - Machiavelli's ideas are fascinating and yet kinda terrifying. It's pretty obvious that he was writing this at a time when stability and power, above all else, were to be aspired for. Never mind the poor little farmer and all the other citizens who are tossed about on a sea of wars and conflicts - this is not the book for them. This is the book for those who have been given the prowess and wherewithal (or the lucky birthright) to find themselves in charge of a nation or principality.

What I appreciate about his format (although sometimes it got a bit dull), is that first he makes a statement of advice, such as: for a prince, it is better to be feared than loved. And then he backs that statement up with the experiences of about four different random Italian princes or Roman emperors or Turkish whomevers who have either exemplified this statement or, if not, how it was their downfall to do otherwise. He's like a walking ancient history book and you can tell that he has really thought all of this through. I can't agree with all of his statements - mostly because I prefer my own form of government that doesn't have to rely so often on cruelty and the sacking of villages in order to keep the peace. But it truly was fascinating to try to imagine being a ruler during the 1500s and all the maneuvering and campaigning and war-fighting that entailed.

I'm glad I read it, only 12 years after first hearing about it in my European History class. It's a short and fast read that really does get you thinking.

5 comments:

wordlily said...

I read this in college, for a political science class. I remember loving it! It's chock full, definitely.

Serena said...

I've read this many times before in college. Machiavelli's work has become the basis of many dictators' ideologies.

Betsey said...

I need to get this read. Thanks for making it sound less daunting. :D

Okie said...

I read this in High School far too many years ago. I vaguely remember enjoying it. I ought to read it again with a new mindset.

Anonymous said...

i m rly imprsd by his stratigic thoughts and he gives such a intelligent cmmnts

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