The birth of the science of modern politics

by Admin on June 11, 2012 · World History and Government

Nicholas Machiavel’s The Prince

As another government, Syria’s Bashar Assad, resolves to violent crackdown on anti-government protests for survival, one rare book Nicholas Machiavel’s Prince (Niccolo Machiavelli Il Principe), seems to be directing his actions. The core formulation of the book is that the end justifies the means and in government the end is controlled by the wickedness and treachery of the governed. During the past two years we witnessed revolutionary forces primarily manned by civilians, battling to overthrow their governments all around the lands of the Mediterranean. First to collapse was the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak then more recently Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and now all eyes are on Syria. Could these rulers have been naïve enough to believe that “Machiavellian” politics could prevail in the 21st century?

Machiavelli’s proposed government consisting of an amalgamation of a charismatic ruler and the absolute need of a national militia, came to fruition during the seventeenth century when the prevailing form of government consisted of monarchies and their national armies. But can such radical ideas function properly in our world today? Democratic uprisings around the Mediterranean are sending strong messages that younger generations will not withstand government deceit and corruption.  Thanks to the World Wide Web people under authoritarian leadership are plugged in and tuned in to social media to quickly counteract in unison against government propaganda using the only means available to them – violence.

The year 2013 will mark the 600-year anniversary of the creation of the most important work of Machiavelli, the founder of the science of modern politics, – Il Principe (the Prince). The work was written in 1513 but was not published in Rome until 1532, five years after the death of Machiavelli.  The book was dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence from 1513. English translations were not published until a century later, primarily due to a ban on the book imposed by Queen Elizabeth I. The first edition in English was published in London and was printed by R. Bishop, for Wil in 1640. It carried the long title:  “Nicholas Machiavel’s Prince. Also, the life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca. And the meanes Duke Valentine us’d to put to death Vistellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto of Fermo, Paul, and the Duke of Gravina. Translated out of Italian into English by Edward Dacres. With some animadversions noting and taxing his errours.”  This book is worth over £ 50,000.

Our Rare Book Sale Monitor (RBSM) has recorded the performance of “Military, World History, and Government,” to be less volatile than the rest of the RBSM groupings. In actuality it resembles the price fluctuation patterns expressed by rare books in general.  This is due to the large content area that this particular genre covers in terms of topics as well as time periods.  While Machiavelli’s, The Prince, falls under this category, it stands alone as a very important and unique book in the world of politics.

Some argue that the world of politics is the exact derivative of the maxims documented by Machiavelli who viewed The Prince as an objective description of political reality. Because he viewed human nature as venal, grasping, and thoroughly self-serving, he suggested that ruthless cunning is appropriate to the conduct of government. More often than not politicians have led the people to believe that their actions would correct all wrongness in exchange for their vote.  Once in power, however, rulers realize that they have set expectations too high to be attainable and realistic, and they instead resort to deceit. Though admired for its incisive brilliance, the book also has been widely condemned as cynical and amoral, and as a result the English language has since gained a new adjective – “Machiavellian,” that has come to mean deceitful, unscrupulous, and manipulative.

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