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The Prince
by Niccolo Machiavelli

Central Theme: Do anything necessary to maintain power.

Show examples of 7 of these concepts used in business.

  1. A willingness to imitate the behavior of great men
  2. The ability to illustrate how government is necessary to the well-being of the populace
  3. A dedication to the art of war — if only for the state's actual survival
  4. An understanding that apparent cruelties and vice may be essential to maintaining stability and power (Rule by force is justified rather than by law. The number of actions done merely to perpetuate power are justified. It is a classic study of power - how to get it, expand it and use it for maximum effect.)
  5. Prudence with respect to disbursement of one's own wealth
  6. Making efforts to appear religious to sway the "vulgar" (The prince should endeavor to be seen as compassionate, trustworthy, sympathetic, honest, and religious. But in reality, the duties of the Prince very rarely allow him to actually be compassionate.)
  7. The wisdom to seek advice and counsel only when it is needed

Principalities (monarchies)

All states and dominions that have existed and have ever held power over men are either Principalities or Republics. Here, the concentration is only on the principality, which are either hereditary, new or composite.

Hereditary principalities

Hereditary principality is inherited from past generations through family succession and is easiest of the types of principalities to maintain. In a hereditary principality the people are automatically loyal to the prince, because he is of an ancient lineage and has the loyalty of the people instilled into his family name, therefore the people have a natural affection for him. Therefore, if outsiders disturb the throne, power is easily regained because the people have history and loyalty instilled in the former ruling family.

New and mixed principalities

New principalities are created through military or civil acquisition. Mixed principalities are new territories that are added to an existing territory. There are four ways in which a prince may acquire a new principality: (1) by one’s own arms, (2) by the arms of others, (3) by evil means (4) and by civil means.

New principalities are more difficult to establish than those of hereditary principalities. When men adopt a completely new ruler they have expectations of better fortune and when the new prince does not meet those unrealistic expectations, hostilities usually ensue. In addition, a new prince is at the mercy of the people. “No matter how powerful one's armies, in order to enter a country one needs the goodwill of the people”. The new prince need change neither the laws nor the customs of the new appendage state, then as Machiavelli states, “men will live quietly.”

When in the acquisition of foreign territories with dissimilar customs and languages a prince must have both fortune and ability. For in the acquisition of an appendage state of various customs and languages dissimilar from yours, “many difficulties arise.” The best strategy in this situation is for the prince to physically reside in the new territory, so that he can quickly put down rebellions and can instill loyalty and fear into his subjects. A virtuous prince must protect and ally his weaker neighbors and weaken the stronger.

As a general rule: He who causes another to become powerful ruins himself.

There are two ways of governing a principality. One of these ways (1) is the absolute rule over the territory with the help of appointed servants. The other way (2) is for a prince to rule along with barons who have acquired their positions through succession and have their own loyal subjects. Of the two, the first would be the hardest to conquer, but the easiest to maintain. While, infiltration would be unproblematic, however controlling any influence would be difficult (because of the lack of absolute power). The only sure way of keeping a principality to destroy it because there is always a chance that its inhabitants will rebel in the name of freedom, which once tasted is never forgotten. Thus, a territory that is used to having a ruler will be easier to control than a more liberal territory, such as a republic.

New principalities acquired by prowess or fortune

For men who have become princes by means of their ability (prowess), the hardest difficulty is the acquisition of their territory. Once rule is established a prince’s prudent ability is all he needs for effective rule. A new prince might be tempted to set up new and innovative methods of government; however, a prince will encounter many enemies who oppose the change or, on the other hand, pervasive supporters. People do not take well to change. Therefore, as Machiavelli deduces, the only effective means of establishing rule is by force:

New principalities acquired by evil means

Benefits must be conferred gradually so they are appreciated more thoroughly and harm should be inflicted all at once. Both harm and benefits should not serve as quick solutions to problems.

New principalities acquired by popular support

Another means for a private citizen to become a prince, is by the popular support of either the common people or the nobles. From the conflicting desires of the people (not to be oppressed) and the nobles (wanting to oppress), comes three possible forms of government: (1) monarchy, (2) democracy and (3) anarchy. A civil principality is born when nobles appoint one from their ranks to rule over the people, or when the people select one of their own to protect themselves against the nobles. He who comes to power through the nobles is less secure than one who comes to power through the people because the nobles will consider themselves equal to the new prince, while the people seek only to be protected from oppression by the prince. A prince must group nobles according to whether they support him or not. In dealing with nobles who are not supportive, the prince should judge whether it is because of their inherent lack of strong character, or because they are ambitious and care more about their own interests. Those of the former character, especially the competent, can be used because they are not a threat. Nevertheless, the ambitious and cunning nobles should be looked upon as enemies to be carefully watched.

Whether a prince comes to power through the people or the nobles, he must win the support of his subjects, which is easily accomplished by not doing them harm. It is important to keep the good will of the people, because they are crucial in times of trouble. A prince should not expect the people to rescue him from trouble. If a prince is a man of courage and ability, the people will inevitably stand behind him even in times of adversity. A prince must therefore, be closely associated with his subjects and he must not rely too heavily on his advisors to lead, lest the subjects will become too dependent on the advisors, rather than on the prince.

Ecclesiastical principalities

A special exception among principalities is the Ecclesiastical Principality. Among the princes, the ecclesiastical prince is the only one who, once in power, does not have to defend his power because it is rooted deep in ancient traditions of religion.

Defense and military

The two most essential foundations for any state are sound laws and strong military forces. A self-sufficient prince is one who can meet any enemy on the battlefield. However, a prince that relies solely on fortifications or on the help of others and stands on the defensive is not. If a prince cannot raise a formidable army and must rely on defense, he must fortify his city. A well-fortified city is not a likely target for attack and if it is, most armies cannot endure an extended siege. However, during a siege a virtuous prince will keep the morale of his subjects high, while removing all dissenters. Therefore, as long as the city is properly defended and has enough supplies, a wise prince can withstand any siege.

The main concern for a prince should be war, or the preparation thereof. It is through war a hereditary prince maintains his power and a private citizen rises to power. A prince must frequently hunt in order to keep the body fit and allow the prince to learn the immediate landscape surrounding his kingdom. Through this, he can best learn how to protect his territory and how to advance upon others similar. Likewise, for intellectual strength, it is advised that a prince be given to the study of great military men so that he may imitate their successes and avoid their mistakes. A prince that is diligent in times of peace will be ready in times of adversity.

Mercenary forces are useless to a ruler because they are undisciplined, cowardly, and without any loyalty. Their only motivation to fight is for money.

Auxiliary forces are more dangerous than mercenary forces because they are united and controlled by capable leaders who may turn against their employers.

Reputation of a prince

Concerning the behavior of a prince toward his subjects: "Many men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good." Since there are many possible qualities that a prince can be said to possess, he must not be overly concerned about having all the good ones. Although a bad reputation should be avoided, this is not crucial in maintaining power. The only ethic that matters is one that is beneficial to the prince in dealing with the concerns of his state.

Generosity vs. parsimony

If a prince is overly generous to his subjects, they will lose appreciation and will only greed for more. Being over-generous is not economical, because eventually all resources will be exhausted which results in higher taxes and will bring grief upon the prince. Then, if you decide to discontinue or limit your generosity, you will be labeled as a miser. Guarding against the people’s hatred is more important than building up a reputation for generosity. A wise prince should be more willing to be reputed a miser than be hated for trying to be too generous

Cruelty vs. mercy

Is it better to be loved than feared? “The answer is of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.” Commitments made in peace are not always kept in adversity, however commitments made in fear are kept out of fear. A prince must ensure that he is not feared to the point of hatred, which is very possible. Do not interfere with the property of the subjects, their women, or the life of somebody without proper justification. Regarding the troops of the prince, fear is absolutely necessary to keep a large garrison united and a prince should not mind the thought of cruelty in that regard. For a prince who leads his own army, it is imperative for him to observe cruelty because that is the only way he can command his soldiers' absolute respect.

Avoiding contempt and hatred

Most men are content as long as they are not deprived of their property and women. A prince should command respect through his conduct, because a prince that is highly respected by his people is unlikely to face internal struggles. A prince who does not raise the contempt of the nobles and keeps the people satisfied, should have no fear of conspirators.

Gaining honors

A prince earns honor by completing great feats. King Ferdinand of Spain is cited by Machiavelli as an example of a lowly monarch who gained esteem by showing his ability through great feats and in the name of religion, he conquered many territories and kept his subjects occupied so that they had no chance to rebel. Regarding two warring states, it is always wiser to choose a side, rather than to be neutral. Machiavelli then provides the following reasons why:

  • If your allies win, you benefit whether or not you have more power than they have.
  • If you are more powerful, then your allies are under your command; if your allies are stronger, they will always feel a certain obligation to you for your help.
  • If your side loses, you still have an ally in the loser.

It is wise for a prince not to ally with a stronger force unless compelled to do so. In conclusion, the most important virtue is having the wisdom to discern what ventures will come with the most reward and then pursuing it courageously.

Nobles and staff

The selection of quality servants is reflected directly upon the prince’s intelligence, so if they are loyal the prince is considered wise; however, when they are otherwise, the prince is open to adverse criticism. There are three types of intelligence:

  • The kind that understands things for itself- which is excellent to have.
  • The kind that understands what others can understand- which is good to have.
  • The kind that does not understand for itself, nor through others- which is useless to have.

If the prince does not have the first type of intelligence, he should at least have the second type.

Avoiding flatterers

A prudent prince should have a select group of wise counselors to advise him truthfully on matters only that he inquires of. All other opinions and suggestions from them should be ignored. Ultimately, the decision should be made by the prince and carried out absolutely. If a prince is given to changing his mind, his reputation will suffer. A prince must have the wisdom to recognize good advice from bad.


Fortune is only the judge of half our actions and we have control over the other half. Fortune is a torrential river that cannot be easily controlled during flooding season. In periods of calm, however, people can erect dams and levees in order to minimize its impact. Fortune seems to strike at the places where no resistance is offered. Additionally, a prince’s rule must be suited and adjusted for the times. A prince should imitate the actions of great men before him but only to a certain extent, then mimic them and adjust certain respectively.