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The Art of Politics: Machiavelli Part I Studying Politics as an end in itself, not just as a means Politics as an Art Our purpose here is to study politics as an end in itself, not just as a means by which policies are created, implemented, etc.

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The Art of Politics: MachiavelliPart I

Studying Politics as an end in itself, not just as a means


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Politics as an Art

  • Our purpose here is to study politics as an end in itself, not just as a means by which policies are created, implemented, etc.

  • How to become a politician and navigate politics is akin to becoming a professional athlete, doctor, or other professional.

  • Successful politicians help shape the future by leading the political process – successful policies are rooted in successful politicians – it is talent, skill!


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Background on Machiavelliand the Prince

  • Machiavelli’s political and theoretical writings start off as a magnificent point to begin our class.

  • Machiavelli’s work is insightful especially in those situations where there is instability or substantial change at hand. The Prince is a playbook, a manual of sorts, for leadership where government needs to be created or stabilized.


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Machiavelli

  • Lived 1469-1527 Medici, Italy.

  • Lived an unstable period of the fractured, war-prone city-states of the Italian peninsula (before unification as a single country).

  • Hence, the key problem to his period is the lack of a unified, stable government for Italy, due to intervention by outside monarchies and the political strength of the Pope.


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Machiavelli as first Modern Political Theorist

  • Machiavelli is considered the first political theorist due to rejection of Ancient philosophy, which is characterized by:

    • Happiness is goal- a well formed society like a beehive- everyone in their place and peaceful. (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, etc.)

    • Holistic philosophy - including all facets of existence- ontology

    • Nature or Gods control fate of humanity.


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Machiavelli vs. Ancients

  • For the Ancients, politics was simply a means to an end (the ideal polis for the Greeks or for the early Christian Church, the best community man can produce reflecting God’s wishes.

  • Machiavelli, in contrast, seeks to study politics for its own sake. Hence, he would support the idea of a Department of Political science, although the term “Science” was not as developed in his time.


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Machiavelli, in contrast

  • Believes that man must control his own destiny, not God(s) or society. In so doing, man is in effect not allowing “nature” to dictate his fate.

  • Less focus on good of collectivity over the individual – preface to Liberal theorists, Locke, etc.

  • Machiavelli employs a methodology based on crude inductive reasoning (as opposed to deductive philosophy) and historical analysis. However, it is not value-free theory, it is still normative and prescriptive.


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The Prince

  • Written as a gift for Prince Lorenzo de’ Medici, in order to help win a political job. Hmmm, sounds like today!!

  • The Prince is not as coherent as most theoretical works due to its purpose as a gift and as a playbook of sorts for politicians, but contains many useful insights.

  • Machiavelli’s more important work is the Discourses on Livy, which explains how and why to set up a Republic.


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How might we apply The Prince to our world today? Let’s extend the Prince to current debates, such as the situation in Iraq.Please feel free to offer comparisons!!


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Book I on Gov. Typology

People live under two types of governments, principalities and republics.

  • “Dominions so acquired are either in the habit of living under a prince or used to being free…”

    What does this sound like? How does it compare to our world today?


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Book I on Gov. Typology

This passage suggests that people are socialized to adapt to a certain political culture. Implications?

  • Hence, can Iraqis be expected to support democracy?

  • To what extent can democracy be spread to other countries, especially by force?

  • Should we be surprised that Iraqis are resisting the US military?

  • Even if the United States were to leave Iraq with an elected government, would it stand on its own feet for long?


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Book I on Gov. Typology

  • This passage also foreshadows issues in subsequent books of the Prince.

    • …they are acquired either with the arms of others or with one’s own,…”

    • “…either by fortune or by virtue.”


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Book II

  • This book at first would seem to be of less relevance today. But think; what does it really say.

    • Are there hereditary principalities today? Yes, all the Arabian peninsula states except Yemen: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, etc.

    • Others do not call themselves so but have set up blood dynasties: N. Korea, Syria, Argentina (Perons), USA [?] (I couldn’t resist the joke, or is it?), et al.

    • Some hereditary monarchies are now republics: UK, France, Norway, Belgium, Japan, Thailand, etc.


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Book III Mixed Principalities

Machiavelli says that hereditary principalities are stable since ruling families are recognized, but were they always that way?

  • Now it is becoming clear that what Machiavelli is doing is describing what we today see as a difference between regimes where there is some popular control and those where few people are in control.

  • Of those where few control, principalities are either hereditary (stable) or mixed (new and likely unstable). That is of much relevance today.


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Book III Mixed Principalities

  • The international system is just full of such unstable “Principalities”:

    • Almost all of Africa since decolonization.

    • All of Central Asia.

    • Majority of Latin America since independence.

    • Large parts of the rest of Asia.

    • Eastern Europe for most of the past 100 years.

      Hence, much of the Prince is dedicated to how to turn a Mixed Principality into a Hereditary one, whereas in the Discourses, his other big work, he explains how to form a Republic.


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Book III Mixed Principalities

  • Coups, insurrection, civil war, are a risk where there is a competition for power between individuals, groups, ethnicities, tribes, clans, ideologies, etc.

  • A new leader needs to please people and fend off enemies.

    Consider the problem of replacing a regime when one is a citizen of that country; now consider what it takes from the outside. Let’s discuss Iraq.


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Example of Iraq

  • “For even though one may have the strongest armies, he always needs the support of the inhabitants of a province in order to enter it.” (Book III)

    In comparison to Iraq, Afghanistan appears to be more welcoming with fewer people resisting, but some regions are more hospitable than others.

    We go on…


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Example of Iraq

  • “Now I say, that such states which, when acquired, are added to an ancient [existing] state of him who acquires them, are either of the same province and same language [similar culture, etc.], or not. When they are, they may be held with great ease, especially if they are not used to living free…But when one acquires states in a province disparate in language, customs, and orders, here are the difficulties, and here one needs to have great fortune and great industry to hold them…”


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Example of Iraq

  • Again, it may have been very naïve to expect that Iraq would not rebel, at least according to Machiavelli, and that the United States could control the situation without extensive Iraqi help. The Bush administration understood this last point, but not necessarily the first.

  • The key to success in Iraq is that Iraqis need to govern themselves, but if they do will it be a democracy, or even stable?


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Example of Iraq

  • Machiavelli even suggests that the conquering prince go live there.

    • Should President Bush or other Cabinet members move to Iraq?

  • Another option is to have your citizens colonize the conquered land and go and rebuild.

    • While the US has attempted to rebuild Iraq, I am not sure we could find many volunteers.


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Example of Iraq

  • What is the other option?

    • Crush those that resist with brutal power. It takes more than shock and awe, it takeskill and kill to instill fear and awe.

  • Even then, weak countries dedicated to their cause have thrown out imperial powers:

    • France in Algeria, Indochina

    • Soviet Union in Afghanistan

    • USA in Vietnam


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Use of Brutal (necessary) Force by a Democracy

  • Can the United States, as a democracy, use the brutality necessary to win in Iraq, or will Americans inevitably become repulsed at the violence and abandon Iraq?

    What is moral?

    If we impose regime change, topple Saddam, in the name of morality, can we dispose of morality to win?

    Do the ends justify the means?


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Use of Brutal (‘necessary’) Force by a Democracy

“...men should either be caressed or eliminated, because they avenge themselves for slight offenses but cannot do so for grave ones; so the offense one does to a man should be such that one does not fear revenge for it.”

  • The French lost Algeria, and the USA lost South Vietnam because these wars became very costly and perceived as immoral by many.



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To what extent do you believe non-Americans are convinced this is isolated. Even if isolated, the ability to manipulate this is a generous present to the enemies of the USA.


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Other points of Book III on disorder this is isolated. Even if isolated, the ability to manipulate this is a generous present to the enemies of the USA.

  • The last few pages of Book III are interesting because they advise the Prince to crush rebellions that in the end will not be avoided.

  • In Iraq, did the lack of proper plans for occupation and slow response to the growing resistance allow these terrorists, jihadists, etc., to grow in strength?


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Book IV: The New State this is isolated. Even if isolated, the ability to manipulate this is a generous present to the enemies of the USA.

  • This book mostly focuses on whether a state conquered will have an autocracy, rule by one and his servants or by a monarchy that includes an aristocracy.

  • What is notable is that a Republic does not seem to be an option.

    • Why is that the case?


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Book IV: The New State this is isolated. Even if isolated, the ability to manipulate this is a generous present to the enemies of the USA.

  • For Machiavelli, a recently conquered state, or new ones in general, may be too prone to civil violence and instability, necessitating that people be bought off or crushed.

  • What would Machiavelli suggest today?

  • Are there alternative policies today that might work, or does Machiavelli capture for us a classical problem?