Machiavelli does, in fact, know what he’s talking about!
I first heard Machiavelli’s name in a high school European History class, but I never read The Prince. My brief introduction to Machiavelli informed me that Machiavelli wrote The Prince in order to be on good terms with the Medici Family. However, Medici took no notice of this book and Machiavelli was not invited back to be involved in politics. Moreover, the public was unresponsive to his writings and The Prince was not published until after his death.
Because of the negative reception Machiavelli received, I was sure that I would disagree with his writings as well. But, I began reading The Prince, and had an open mind to the arguments Machiavelli put forth. After reading a couple chapters, I was starting to believe that maybe Machiavelli knew what he was talking about! Two particular situations caught my attention and although many are critical of The Prince, I agree with many situations Machiavelli discusses.
In chapter three, Machiavelli makes a claim that rulers must be able to foresee crises that are bound to happen. He compares a looming war to a disease because
“In the beginning the disease is easy to cure, difficult to diagnose; but after a while, if it has not been diagnosed and treated early, it becomes easy to diagnose and hard to cure.”
What a genius analogy! Centuries later, this analogy still applies. If a ruler would have been able to foresee a crisis, many of the wars that have occurred could have been stopped. For example, if Hitler’s intentions had been exposed from the beginning, it could have been easier to cure the “disease” he caused.
Furthermore, in my discussion session, there was a lot of debate over whether we agreed with Machiavelli’s claim that it is “safer to be feared than loved.” Those who disagreed pointed to the fact that there have been numerous leaders in history that have not been feared, and still remain to be the greatest leaders of our time. Nevertheless, I personally agree with Machiavelli’s assertion because fear will motivate a ruler’s subjects to be more responsive to him. Though it is important to be viewed in a good light, too much compassion can prevent people from taking a ruler too seriously. So, to those who viewed The Prince as an immoral piece of work, I want to say that I believe there ARE valid points that Machiavelli makes that prove his knowledgeability about politics. Further, hundreds of years later at The University of Michigan, we are still reading his work.