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to be loved or to be feared, that is the question!

September 25, 2010
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Is it better to be loved than feared, or vice versa? This is the question that Machiavelli sought out to answer in chapter seventeen of the prince.  When answering this question, it all comes down to what individual you are referring to.  In regards to a ruler, I agree with Machiavelli and believe that it is better for a ruler to be feared than loved.  Machiavelli explains “ Men are less nervous of offending someone who makes himself lovable, than someone who makes himself frightening” (pg 36).  When an individual is loved they are more prone to being taken advantage of, and it is easier for one to use them. When an individual is feared than people are more nervous to take advantage of them, so therefore they listen to them more. When you are in a position of power  “ It is much safer to be feared than loved” (pg. 35). People are not going to question you, and ask why? They will do it hands down because “ they are afraid of punishment” (pg.36).

Let’s look at this question, in a different perspective. When talking about an individual other than a ruler, such as a spiritual advisor is it better to be loved than feared? I believe it is better for a spiritual advisor to be loved. A spiritual advisor is one you can tell anything too.  You express to them your deepest thoughts, and ultimate secrets.  They should know more about you than you know about yourself. So therefore, if they are feared than you won’t have this special connection with them, and you won’t be able to express to them what you are feeling.

Machiavelli mentions “ it is difficult to accomplish both being love and being feared at the same time (pg.35). Though, this is true I believe parents are an example of individuals who are loved and feared at the same time.  Parents are considered to be the number one role models of most children. They represent the ultimate expressive hood of love. Parents care about their children, they provide them with food, a roof on their head, and clothes on their back, these all represent a form of love.  Yet, at the same time parents can also be feared. In order to insure their children are well raised, they must instill a form of discipline. When this is instilled, children develop life-learning lessons. So though this may represent fear, it is fear that is respected. The concepts of loved and feared are both forms of respect in parents.

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2 Comments
  1. Koral Skeen permalink
    September 26, 2010 3:11 PM

    I find this to be an interesting point. I too was fascinated with Machiavelli’s statement in chapter 16 about love and fear. Your example about parents being both loved and feared by their children presents the idea that the parents are in this case the leader of a family. Machiavelli also says “love attaches men by ties of obligation” (pg. 36), but in some cases could that love oblige a leader to be fearful and leaving others “afraid of punishment” (pg. 36)? For example with the parents, does a parent’s love oblige them to apply tough love through punishments when children misbehave? Therefore, the parent is being both loved and feared.

    Also, a different thought, when Machiavelli says “it is safer to be feared than loved” (pg.35) could this possibly apply to the leaders of the United States today? From on view, maybe if President Obama and other prominent U.S. leaders were feared by other rulers this country would not be dealing with terrorist attacks or threats. If the U.S. leaders were feared by the U.S. citizens then maybe people wouldn’t speak out as much, expressing their hatred from political decisions that are made. From another view, if the leaders were more loved than hated, could that raise the problems Machiavelli discusses with not being able to hold control and being taken advantage of?

  2. jaclburr permalink
    September 27, 2010 1:25 PM

    I too was interested in this concept of fear vs. love upon first reading of these concepts via Machiavelli. I do agree that there are definitely certain positions where one is more necessary than the other. Yet, even so, consider a ruler that is 100% feared. Yes, his subjects will obey him and not question him out of fear of punishment. Yet, what is to happen when someone comes along who promises to overthrow said feared ruler, at no cost to the subjects, and rid them of living in fear alone? As long as there will be no punishment to them personally, the subjects will most likely welcome the change. They feel no love for the ruler, so why would they fight for him? Only being feared invites mutiny and conspiring. Yes, fear may keep it at bay for a while, but if the people can find enough others who agree with them and are willing to overthrow the ruler, they will go for it.

    If, on the other hand, they also hold love for their ruler, they will have no desire for such actions. Parents are an excellent example you named. We must fear them in order to be raised in such as way as to behave well and become well-rounded people. Yet, there must be some element of love present as well, or we would disobey their orders the first chance we got and unleash chaos. Yes, some kids end up doing this, and it is probalby because they don’t have love for their parents. Interesting dichotomy!

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