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Machiavelli has been condemned as a godless and wicked thinker. Is He? Write an apology (defense) for Machiavelli. Argue that he is not godless and wicked.
Niccolo Michiavelli has received much hatred and condemnation from the masses ever since he wrote the book “The Prince” inspired by the prince Cesare Borgia of Papal States during the 15th Century. People hatred has led him disregard for his political doctrine to such an extent that Catholic Churches in France have kept his works as prohibited pieces that should never be read and shed light upon. Not only this, but one also comes across the word Machiavellism in the Oxford Dictionary as meaning the use of cunningness and wickedness in general conduct to get done what is to be done. This implies how far the public image of his work had led him to be hated and disregarded for his political contribution. The question thus arises why would a man go against the public interest? What was his objective? Was it really to be hated for the centuries to come? If so, then why would he spend time and effort in producing this contribution? According to him, his book was inspired by his passion for unifying Italy and how effective he though the idea of a leader likes Prince Borgia was to achieve this passionate objective. How this idea turned out was a disaster for Machiavellism. But was it right? Machiavellism is to a great extent falsely accused of wickedness and godlessness. When we closely look at his objectives and analysis of Italy during the time he wrote the book, his purpose was to bring about a new political doctrine, which though was offensive but had a lot to teach and he should have been enough credit that he deserved, if his ideas were not implemented, nonetheless. In fact, his theory is justified in the light of imperial rule, and the concept of leadership.
Machiavelli’s point of view reflects his background greatly. Born and raised in Italy he was very much infused with the idea of government and political involvement, so he entered as a secretary and after meeting the Prince Borgia he developed the notion that a person like this was necessary to bring Italy into unification. This idea was soon downtrodden when the Medici family entered the political scenario of Italy and took over the government, leaving Machiavelli helpless to employ his ideas into the government. But he was not the person to give up and using the only voice he had, his mind and his writing, he thought of bringing forth his ideas for the political development of Italy, which was right in his own way. But this was not as simple as it seemed, Machiavelli was banished to live in a meager farm, and isolated from the masses. This only gave him more time and surrounding to think cleverly and design his new political doctrine.
His answer to the Medici family was in the form of the book Prince, which remains to be his greatest piece of work which formed an image that is even today hard to change. He did not want his life to be wasted in the harsh surrounding he was made to live in. he wanted change and wished for the Medici family to use him and his mind for the betterment of Italy. The idea that he developed during this time was freeing of political decisiveness from moral obligations. As harsh as it sounded, it was condemned by the surrounding that Machiavelli was made to live in, this goes for the present as well as the political environment that he witnessed during his job as a secretary. According to him political decision making should be in isolation from ethical boundaries. His theory defined an altogether new political scenario where politics and ethics were two different dimensions that were to not combine to run a state. In order words, he ought to remove emotionalism and public involvement in politics which only makes it weak and less responsive to changing dynamics of the world.
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For this work of his he was and still is condemned as “evil” and inspired by the devil. Though his idea seems evil and godless, and very much inclined towards the notion that the “end justifies means,” there is a lot of relevance embedded in the idea which should not be ignored in terms of reflection of the past as well as the concept of leadership.
According to Machiavelli, a prince or a leader of a nation, which implies anyone who rules the country, should run the country as in a war, where the methods and disciplines of a war are employed to achieve the objectives, only then is victory achieved. Thus, this idea is evident in the famous saying, “everything is fair in love and war.” How come people have come to adopt this saying as the gospel truth but are against Machiavelli’s political spirit, which is very much similar to this idea. Alexander is known as the greatest ruler, for which he is known as ‘Alexander the Great’. If he had involved emotions and ethics in his battlefield he may not have been known like this. Alexander commanded murder of his loyal commander, who had been with him in every battle and looked after him, was this ethical? But for Alexander, in isolation from his emotions and ethics, he knew that this man may ruin his plan to conquer Persian Empire, so he got rid of him. Who remembers this commander? No one but all remember Alexander who conquered Persian Empire and developed Egypt as a trading center during that time and for the centuries to come. The end justified the means for him, then how come it did not for Machiavelli, whose intention was for the betterment of Italy not at the expense of other nation’s safety, like the threat that Alexander posed to other nations. But unlike Machiavelli who was downtrodden with a terrible fate, Alexander received much praised for his leadership, which was based on the notion that Machiavelli wanted Italy’s political body to adopt.
But to defend Machiavelli’s position, a step ahead from the argument ‘ends justifies means’ is required. Reflecting on his idea of leadership in the light of famous contributions of McGregor and Maslow, one can develop a stronger framework of relevance for Machiavelli’s work.
McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y reflect two types of leadership styles. Theory X workers are lazy, want to avoid work mostly, love to earn money for just sitting around, and money is the only motivator for them, they avoid responsibility and all sorts of challenge in work and they differentiate between work and leisure. On the other hand Theory Y workers involve in their work with passion and devotion and love to take responsibility, intrinsic as well as extrinsic rewards motivate them to work harder, and they accept challenges in work and do not avoid it as it gives them pride to be worth something. There are two very distinct styles of leadership that deals with these two classes of people. Where Theory Y calls for a more diplomatic, and laizze faire leadership, theory X on the other hand requires a more authoritative leader who keeps firm control over the people under him, who are ready to avoid tasks and responsibilities and cause a mayhem. According to Machiavelli, it is better to execute the one causing trouble than simply avoid it, hoping to solve the problem on its own, which only leads to a massive mayhem and disorder on a large basis. The leadership style that Machiavelli developed is largely linked with McGregor’s theory X, giving way to the notion that the type of leadership undertaken depends upon the people to be led. Machiavelli’s perception and understanding of the people of Italy during the 16th century may have been so, like the Theory X workers, which led him to develop this idea of authoritative leadership.
On the other hand according to Abraham Maslow, humans have different sets of needs and once every set of need is satisfied he passes onto the other level of needs. These basic needs being physical, such as food and shelter following by safety needs, social belongingness needs, esteem needs and the final, self-actualization needs. To accomplish these needs, actions are required which are justified once accomplished. Thus, this theory can also be reacted to Machiavelli, who assumed the condition of Italy as being less politically stable and unsafe, and though of this political doctrine as a solution to the problem to accomplish this need that Italy during the 16th Century had.
Machiavelli created a solution and developed a new political mind frame that received much critic and condemnation as being wicked and godless. But this was passionate critic. Being a political mindset, the observation of Machiavelli should have been more dispassionate and in isolation from emotions, such as the notion he had throughout his book. He wanted ethics and emotions to be removed from politics, and leaders get more like Alexander or prince Borigia for that matter which was the requirement of Italy at that time. Though, people showed disregard for his work, but based on the then prevailing situation, one can say that Machiavelli’s contribution was highly relevant if understood dispassionately.
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