The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli is the most influential work on political power ever written. It consists of 26 chapters, with the book split into two, roughly equal parts. The first half covers how to gain power and the second concerns how to hold onto that power once you have gained it. Machiavelli's writing has stressed the need to be real, rather than focusing on what is ideal. The book has influenced many leaders all over the world from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to Napoleon Bonaparte and Joseph Stalin. To this day it has an extensive effect on politics and ethics. In this video, I give a brief overview of Machiavelli's most influential strategies and ideas, including examples featuring commanders such as Alexander the Great.
Machiavelli's name is a byword for immorality and political scheming. But that's deeply unfair. This was simply a political theorist interested in the survival and flourishing of the state
According to Machiavelli, the ends always justify the means—no matter how cruel, calculating or immoral those means might be. Tony Soprano and Shakespeare’s Macbeth may be well-known Machiavellian characters, but the man whose name inspired the term, Niccolo Machiavelli, didn’t operate by his own cynical rule book. Rather, when Machiavelli wrote The Prince, his shrewd guidelines to power in the 16th century, he was an exiled statesman angling for a post in the Florentine government. It was his hope that a strong sovereign, as outlined in his writing, could return Florence to its former glory.
The most revolutionary aspect of The Prince is its separation of politics and ethics. Classical political theory traditionally linked political law with a higher, moral law. In contrast, Machiavelli argues that political action must always be considered in light of its practical consequences rather than some lofty ideal.