21st Century : Masters : Machiaveli
Niccolo Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469 in Florence, Italy. He was a political philosopher and diplomat during the Renaissance, and best known for his famous work, "The Prince" (1513).
In "The Prince," Machiavelli offered a monarchical ruler advice designed to keep that ruler in power. He recommended policies that would discourage mass political activism, and channel subjects' energies into private pursuits. Machiavelli wanted to persuade the monarch that he could best preserve his power by the judicious use of violence, by respecting private property and the traditions of his subjects, and by promoting material prosperity. Machiavelli held that political life cannot be governed by a single set of moral or religious absolutes, and that the monarch may sometimes be excused for performing acts of violence and deception that would be ethically indefensible in private life.
During the Renaissance Italy was a scene of intense political conflict involving the dominant city-states of Florence, Milan, Venice, and Naples, plus the Papacy, France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire. Each city attempted to protect itself by playing the larger powers off against each other. The result was massive political intrigue, blackmail, and violence. "The Prince" was written against this backdrop, and in its conclusion Machiavelli issued an impassioned call for Italian unity, and an end to foreign intervention.
Machiavelli's other major work, "Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius" (1513-21), was mainly concerned with "republics," defined as states controlled by a politically active citizenry. In "Discourses" he emphasized that for a republic to survive, it needed to foster a spirit of patriotism and civic virtue among its citizens. Machiavelli argued that a republic would be strengthened by the conflicts generated through open political participation and debate.
Partly because Machiavelli's pragmatic view of the relationship between ethics and politics, he has been widely misinterpreted. The adjective "Machiavellian" has become a pejorative used to describe a politician who manipulates others in an opportunistic and deceptive way.
Article Copyright 2000 http://www.lucidcafe.com and Robin Chew
Machiavelli at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy