Niccolò Machiavelli's Acquisition of Power

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Niccolò Machiavelli is representative of Renaissance thinkers in his perception of government. No longer was government seen as an institution granted by God but rather governments were largely becoming arrangements or contracts between those that govern and the governed. Thinkers from Aristotle to Francis Bacon would expound on this idea of a social contract, but none would exemplify the realism and ruthlessness of modern politics like Machiavelli.

While the word Machiavellian has become part of our lexicon as a term for the ruthless execution of political will glorifying the “ends justify the means” mentality, Machiavelli’s true legacy should be found in his belief that the state was more than a contract as Bacon or John Locke would later explain. Machiavelli was shrewd enough to understand that the state was an entity in and of itself which needed to be protected from all dangers both external and internal. In Machiavelli’s belief, it is the enlightened prince who must act on behalf of his subject’s best interests. As such, a prince should not find himself beholden to the same rules of morality and ethics that govern individuals. To the casual observer this outlook could be described as cynical at best and immoral at worst. But to the student of history and politics it is remarkably prescient. Machiavelli’s ideas would go on to mold political thought well into the modern era.

In order to fully grasp Machiavelli’s point of view one must first understand the ideas that helped to formulate his theories. Machiavelli was heavily schooled in ancient history and philosophy. This is the basis of his political thought. “For Machiavelli…the study of the ancients was valuable because they were human models, and the attem...

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...ews can be interpreted as cunning and shrewd. His realism, while seemingly cold and heartless, allows the prince, future politicians and world leaders to act in their own self interests, by doing such they act for the benefit of their subjects.

Works Cited

Briesach, Ernst. Renaissance Europe 1300-1517. New York: Macmillan Company, 1973.

Hale, J.R. Machiavelli and Renaissance Italy. New York: Macmillan Company, 1960.

Kristellar, Paul Oskar. Renaissance Thought – The Classic, Scholastic, and Humanist Strains.

New York: Harper Tourchbooks/The Academy Library – Harper & Row, 1961.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince and Other Writings. Wayne Rebhorn translator. New York:

Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003.

Rebhorn, Wayne. The Prince and Other Writings. Niccolò Maciavelli. Wayne Rebhorn

translator. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003.
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