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Book Review of Machiavelli’s “The Prince”


Subject Literature Pages 5 Style APA



The Prince was written in 1913 by Machiavelli after he was exited from Florence. He therefore dedicated the book to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence, guiding him on how to retain power and pass it to the next generation (Machiavelli, 2011). Some analysts speculate that, by writing this book, he intended to express his knowledge and wisdom on political philosophy to merit for the advisory post in the kingdom. However, others contend that it was a satirical guide on how not to rule. The book is written in plain and straightforward manner providing practical and understandable advice on how to acquire and safeguard political power in an autocratic regime. These details are presented in 26 chapters discussing the conduct and personality of great men as well as the principles to be practiced by princely governments. Guided by Machiavelli’s arguments, this paper presents a book review of The Prince by answering the following questions (Machiavelli, 2011). First, it describes Machiavelli’s views on the qualities of an ideal Price. Second, it explores why Machiavelli claimed that it is much better for a Prince to be feared and loved. Third, it explains Machiavelli’s perception on the role of ethical considerations in the conduct of a Prince. Other sections of the paper explore the relevance of the book to the contemporary society and how reading the book has impacted my impression of the modern political leaders.

Qualities of an Ideal Prince

Machiavelli explains that an ideal prince should possess a number of qualities. In summary, he notes that a prince or a ruler should be ruthless whenever there is need, inspire respect, be willing to disregard virtue when necessary, and possess military expertise (Machiavelli, 2011). He insists that these qualities are essential if a prince wants to seize and retain power. He explains that the quality of ruthlessness is important since it deters rivals and other kingdoms from launching attacks. Machiavelli however reprimands Prince’s from engaging in blood-soaked tyranny but rather, emphasizes the need for them to be firm and always be in control of circumstances (Chekaramit, 2018). He explains that this quality is important since it helps them keep the kingdom under control not only for their good, but also for peace and stability of the realm.

Secondly, Machiavelli notes that a Prince should set aside virtues. He explains that an ideal ruler should not draw values from Christianity. As much as he believes that there is a place for Christianity, he cautions that statecraft should not be dependent on religious teachings. Machiavelli strongly believed that political power was secular and thus, should not be intertwined with Christian morals.

Third, Machiavelli explained the need for an ideal Prince to inspire respect. He proposed that the best way to earn respect was by being generous and acting according to situations. Machiavelli cautioned against being or appearing to be a miser as it attracts resentment from followers. He notes that a Prince should be generous by gifting objects won from war and everything that is not theirs (Shotunde, 2019). To further the respect earned, a Prince should create an appearance that matches to the situation. This point implies that a prince should understand the situation at hand and respond appropriately. In regard to respect, an ideal prince should also be prudent so as to avoid blame but to be worth of praise and admiration by the followers. The book explains that ideal Prince’s should protect their reputation by safeguarding what people think of them, rather than what they think of themselves.

In section five of the book, Machiavelli proposes that an ideal prince should have a strong foundation in military. They should study war like it is an art. Machiavelli further explains that an ideal Prince should follow the example of great men who garnered the highest glory and emulate their behavior at the time of war (Machiavelli, 2011). Machiavelli had the view that the goal of any Prince is to retain power and thus, they had to be competent in the art of war to defend their kingdom and retain control indefinitely. To avert being overthrown, the leader had to strategize and think more about war in the times of peace more than the time of conflict. Besides mastering war, the Prince should have military support to prevent revolts.

Justification for Machiavelli’s Claim that a Prince Should be Loved and Feared

Machiavelli pondered that it is the wish of every ideal Prince to be loved and feared, however, since the two cannot coexist all the time, he insists that it is safer to be feared more than loved. In support of these sentiments, Machiavelli explains that a Prince should be compassionate and generous for him to be admired. But he should be careful not to show compassion in an unwise manner, unless people will take advantage of it. When the Prince is loved for being too compassionate, and goes without punishing disloyal followers, the kingdom will attract an atmosphere of disorder since every subject will do what they please (Goodwin, 2017). He explains that whereas crime harms the entire society, executions harm the individuals committing the crime. This argument necessitates cruelty whenever necessary. By taking such actions, a Prince becomes feared and thus, people easily desist from any action that disrupts order or disrespects the Prince.

Machiavelli further this argument noting that if he had to choose between being loved or feared, he would prefer the later since human beings are fickle, ungrateful, covetous of gain, and dissembling. They are also likely to flee danger if given an alternative. For these reasons, when people who love the Prince are faced with danger, they are more willing to risk on his behalf, however, when the danger becomes unbearable or when offered an incentive to betray the Prince, they will easily turn against the prince (Goodwin, 2017). Machiavelli notes that it is easier for people to break the bond of love when or unfavorable situations arise. On the contrary, the fear for punishment and reprimand would make them faithful to the Prince in every situation. Machiavelli only cautions the Prince against causing too much fear that it turns to hatred. Besides he notes that cruelty and fear are essential in keeping the army united, disciplined, and loyal to the Prince.

The Role of Ethical Considerations in the Conduct of a Prince

Machiavelli is classified as a reformist who challenged the ethics of morality and instead, presented a more cunning proposals for ethical conduct that could strengthen the dominance of an ideal Prince. According to Cosans and Reina (2018) Machiavelli’s literature proposes the establishment of an ethical system where leadership is focused on uprooting corruption and in its place, establishing new rules of law. He argues that ethical considerations should not be the basis for determining or weighing the conduct of a Prince. His proposals have made his teachings on ethics to be classified as consequentialist ethics (Knoll, 2019). Machiavelli insists that where necessary, a leader should perform become unethical by doing bad things. The disregard for ethics is highly emphasized when the leader feels that ethics could constrain their decisions and actions. For instance, he explains that in cases where a Prince wants to annex land in a region where people speak a similar language, it is necessary to eradicate the family of the ruler who holds the biggest sway over the citizens. His advocacy for somehow cruel and ruthless rule challenges his value for ethical leadership. Guided by this illustration, it is evident that Machiavelli attached insignificant value to ethics as his main advocacy was for leaders to use any means necessary to annex and retain power, even if their actions are considered unethical.

Extent of Relevance of ‘The Prince’ to Contemporary Society in a Modern Age

Modernity has led to the eradication of monarchies and other forms of governance to which Machiavelli addressed his book. Nonetheless, the significance of his literature on the field of political science continues to shape modern approaches to politics and power. According to Goodwin (2017), Machiavelli is credited as the father of modern political theory. In the recent history, his works influenced some of the greatest leaders namely Vladimir Illich Lenin. Lenin is one of the best Machiavellian rulers to be documented as he ruled with both love and force. Harry Truman who was the 33rd President of the United States is also considered a Machiavellian ruler. His decision to use the atomic bomb during the Second World War on Nagasaki and Hiroshima shows his ruthlessness as prescribed by Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince. The decision by Truman to bomb Japan’s largest cities was motivated by the desire to annihilate and incapacitate the energy rather than abiding by the principles of war (Goodwin, 2017). His actions therefore emulates the shredded morals and disregard for the ethics of war, as advocated by Machiavelli. To a wide extent, Machiavelli’s principles and teachings are still applied by leaders who want to become influential and sustain the influence over their followers. In fact, these policies are not only applied in the political sphere but also in the business world. An instance is Jeff Bezos who has been described by the media as a Modern day Machiavelli because of his ruthlessness when dealing with the employees (Mahesh, 2020). In spite of his actions which instigate fear, he is equally loved by his employees and as a result of his adherence to the principles advocated by Machiavelli, Amazon continues to thrive and outdo its rivals.

Another important element of leadership that has been embraced by modern leaders is the concept of appearance. Machiavelli explained that a prince should appear in a manner that entices the public. To achieve this goal, a leader should appeal to all faiths, religion, friendship, and humanity without being so tightly entwined to one (Knoll, 2019). In line with this statement, most modern leaders create an appearance of an ideal person rather than being themselves. Whereas in reality everyone is self-interested, deceitful, and profit driven, Machiavelli’s principles motivate leaders to create an aura that contrasts these basis human concepts. A case in point is President Barack Obama who campaigning opposed same-sex marriage but later changed his stand after being elected (Goodwin, 2017). These instances evidence the relevance of Machiavellian doctrine on modern leadership.

How Reading the Prince Impacted my Impression of Modern Political Leaders

Reading the book has been an eye opener on the qualities that successful leaders need to embody. A critical look at the modern political leaders shows that as much as they stand with the citizens in most of the public issues, their interest is often directed to making personal gains at the expense of the public (Menaldo, 2018). As much as most of them sell themselves to the electorate as lovable people, they end up engaging in questionable activities. Despite such instances, some leaders continue to attract a lot of love from their followers, who often disregard the negative news and instead, embrace the positives they hear about the leaders. The behavior of the modern political leader and the followers is a perfect representation of Machiavelli’s principles. All human beings are deceitful and pretentious.


This essay analyses Machiavelli’s The Prince by answering five sets of question. The first question notes that an ideal prince should have four main qualities, namely; be ruthless whenever there is need, inspire respect, be willing to disregard virtue when necessary, and possess military expertise. The second question emphasizes that it is much better for a leader to be feared than loved because fear entices followers to be more loyal. Evidently, the book disregards the role of ethics and instead, proposes the use of unorthodox approaches to seizing and sustaining control and power. The Machiavellian principles continue to dominate modern politics, despite the collapse of monarchial systems of governance. The principles advocated by Machiavelli are evident across most leaders globally. The impression created when reading the book is that all human beings, namely the followers and the leaders are deceitful and cunning when presented with a chance. It is the duty of the leader to wisely discern the environment and camouflage himself to be loved yet feared.


Chekaramit, T. (2018). Niccolo Machiavelli’s perspective of politics. ve Perspecti ves fo, 127.

Cosans, C. E., & Reina, C. S. (2018). The leadership ethics of Machiavelli’s prince. Business Ethics Quarterly, 28(3), 275-300.

Goodwin, D. (2017). The Relevance of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince to Contemporary Society and Politics. Retrieved from: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-relevance-niccolo-machiavellis-the-prince-contemporary-society-and-politics

Knoll, M. (2019). Machiavelli’s consequentialist ethics of responsibility. History of Political Thought, 40(4), 631-648.

Machiavelli, N. (2011). The prince (il principe). 120 banned, 137.

Mahesh, A. (2020). Jeff Bezos: Modern-Day Machiavelli. Retrieved from: https://aish-mahesh.medium.com/jeff-bezos-modern-day-machiavelli-a0167e085d7b

Menaldo, M. A. (2018). Leadership and the virtue of deception in Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince. In Leadership and the Unmasking of Authenticity. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Shotunde, A. O. (2019). Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy: Analysis of Its Substance and Contemporary Relevance. Lagos Historical Review, 19.

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