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Niccolò Machiavelli and The Prince-hublogistics-4pl-ticino-elena-visconti

Niccolò Machiavelli and "The Prince"

History

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a famous Italian political thinker, historian, writer, and diplomat of the Renaissance. Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy, and spent much of his life in the service of the Florentine Republic. He was involved in various diplomatic and military activities, traveling on various missions on behalf of the Florentine government. 

His most famous and influential work is “The Prince“, written around 1513 and published posthumously in 1532. This work made Machiavelli a familiar name in the world of politics and philosophy, although he is associated with the concepts of cunning, deceit, and opportunism.

The term “Machiavellianism,” derived from Machiavelli’s name, refers to a political doctrine that emphasizes the unscrupulous use of power to achieve one’s goals. It is often associated with the famous phrase “the end justifies the means,” meaning that any deceitful behaviour is justified if it leads to the desired outcome.

The Prince
“The Prince” is a political treatise that focuses on leadership and governance strategies. Machiavelli’s main goal was to offer practical advice to rulers on how to maintain power, protect their dominion, and achieve political objectives, regardless of moral considerations.

Machiavelli refers to various historical figures to exemplify his political principles and advice: among others, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Scipio Africanus, and my all-time favourite, Cesare Borgia.

Cesare embodies in the imagination the Renaissance prince and Machiavelli’s ideal: ambitious, skilful with weapons, diplomatic, when necessary, determined, often cruel, adaptable, politically, and morally ambiguous. His figure is certainly controversial, fascinating, and open to various interpretations.

Cesare was the son of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). Machiavelli observed Cesare Borgia’s actions and strategies during his attempt to consolidate power in Italy. He employed both military force and diplomacy to achieve supremacy. However, Cesare failed in the long term, primarily due to the death of his father, Pope Alexander VI, in 1503. This event destabilized his position and weakened his control over the territory he had acquired.

Subsequently, Cesare Borgia was defeated and captured by his enemies.

Machiavelli used Cesare Borgia as an example in “The Prince” to illustrate the complexities and challenges of political power. While Cesare Borgia displayed strategic acumen in pursuing power, his final failure highlights the unpredictability and vulnerability of political ambitions, as even the most skilled rulers could face unforeseen circumstances that could lead to their downfall.

Machiavelli is known for his realistic and pragmatic view of politics. He emphasizes that the goal of a ruler is the stability and well-being of the state and that it might be necessary at times to adopt ferocious or immoral measures to achieve this purpose.

One of Machiavelli’s fundamental ideas in “The Prince” is the necessity for a ruler to separate their moral and private conduct from their political conduct. This concept is the foundation of the expression “the end justifies the means“.

The work of Machiavelli is intricately linked to the turbulent political context of his time, characterized by power struggles, conflicts between Italian city-states, and interference from foreign powers.

The End Justifies the Means in Business

In the context of business, the idea that “the end justifies the means” can be applied by companies aiming to achieve their business goals unscrupulously. 

For example, according to me, deceptive marketing and advertising practices fall under this context. But questionable activities in business do not end there. Consider unfair competition, which should not exist, but is an established fact. Think of gossip or spreading false rumours about competitors. Or the exploitation of employees to gain better economic advantage, which according to common belief happens only in third-world economies. But is it so? 

The presence of questionable practices, often hidden, is an uncomfortable reality that can be found even in our world. Despite preaching to adhere to ambitious standards of ethics and transparency, we are not exempt from manipulative behaviour, both in the private and public sectors. Machiavelli, in a cynical manner, recognized a truth that remains unchanged over the centuries: the end justifies the means. To make it acceptable to our consciences, we endorse it with various justifications: the strongest wins, we are obliged by competition, survival requires getting our hands dirty, and so on. Do you agree with?

Next article: Rousseau: The Social Contract 

Recommended readings: 

Political Philosophy:  

1. “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli 

2. “The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau 

3. “The Republic” by Plato 

Strategic Philosophy: 

1. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu 

2. “The Art of winning an argument” by Arthur Schopenhauer  

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