Machiavelli's Political Theory

Category: Politics

Machiavelli's theory of politics seeks to explain the way in which a given society can assure a collective good for its citizens. Machiavelli highlighted that the collective good of a society is equal to the national interest. He stated that the will of the people to engage in active politics where they control and govern themselves from being governed by foreign powers, should be the main characteristic of the collective good preservation. His presentation of freedom has some similarity to that of Aristotle, where he stresses that people consciously and deliberately maintain a united control over their livelihoods.

He set out three types of freedom; freedom from local subjugation, freedom from foreign invasion, and freedom from the unfavorable conditions of human nature. He believed that this can only be achieved through the notion, "The end justifies the means", and whatever is best suited to benefit the society is a good end. He did not consider personal political success a good end because it is not a matter of national interest and does not ensure strength, security or power for the state. Such kind of success gives the elite in the society a chance to exploit the citizens.

Comparing ordinary people and noblemen, Machiavelli said that the nobles want to supersede in a greedy way while the lower orders wish not to be dictated. Therefore, they gain a greater will to live in the benefit of liberty. He was quick to note that people should not employ "not good" means to preserve the common good.

He put across an argument where he said that there are two groups of people; one lies, tortures and kills to be regarded victors, and another seeks to eliminate the ruthlessness. The latter shows commitment in collective good and public interest, unlike the former, which just minds their own might. His debate was that for the ruthless group to be victorious, it has to support the interest of the public. The gentle group will have to be ruthless in the end to succeed. This leads to a common path towards common interest where the two groups finally come together.

Machiavelli does not seem to agree with other political theorists like Locke and Aristotle on the issue of participatory politics based on democracy, and further negotiations concerning the majority decision in the society. He noted that such a political system cannot work and observed that justice is a political creation. Machiavelli concurred with Aristotle's advancement of public interests through political involvement although he doubted that people can clearly air out their interests. He thought that the nature of man is malleable and that his politics of collective good in the end leads to a mixed form of governance. The system, therefore, gives a room for everybody to be included in the government, which ensures that no particular individual is left out.

This Machiavelli's approach has the disadvantage of corruption and nepotism. He assumed that people have inborn selfishness and greed, hence they are prone to corrupt tendencies. He presumed that people tend to be private and to lead quite easy and selfish lives which the nobles capitalize on, cropping up a corrupt system. Machiavelli endeavored for a non-dominant society. However, this can be achieved in a utopian society where there is no one who dominates. He is right to some extent, and his view can work best when combined with other perspectives, which seek to ensure the good for the whole society. This means an establishment of independent society which respects and guarantees equality for all people, as well as allows for political consultations and discussions.

Before Machiavelli's time, politics and ethics were linked together both in practice and theory. The ancient works of Aristotle revealed that politics (morality of people in communities and organized social groups) was a subject in ethics (moral behavior of people). Machiavelli in turn separated these two principles freeing the study of politics into autonomy. In his book, The Prince, he repeatedly argued that he was not looking for a perfect republics or utopias unlike his previous predecessors. He stated that there is a difference between how people live and how they should live. It means that the one who abandons what has been made and goes for what should be made is on a road to self-destruction than preservation.

Machiavelli's political realism sought to focus on politics of "effectual truths" where his pragmatic theory would be used in governance. However, there has been a lot of criticism due to lack of a school of thought similar to Machiavelli's. Such problem occurred because his theory has never led to any revolutions or political movement nor has it been reflected in any constitution. In fact, Lorenzo de Medici whom The Prince had been dedicated to, never read the book. What makes The Prince such a relevant article is that it airs the view of the world from a sternly demoralized perspective.

It is better for a prince to be feared instead of being loved because the former is constant while the latter is fickle. The book seeks to bring out the virtues that a prince should have in order to be successful in his endeavors. His use of virtu and fortuna in the book should be comprehended well. Machiavelli's goal was to separate politics from religion and ethics. In reply, he put virtu across the fortuna, which he downplayed for the former. In fact, fear falls under virtue while love is in fortune's rubric.

In the current world of governance, Machiavelli can be compared to Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe. Similarly to the main hero in The Prince, President Mugabe have tried to shelter the country from invasion of the West in a more colloquial and ruthless way. In the recent past, he has evicted white settlers from the country's farmlands and awarded them to the citizens in order to ensure non-dominance of the Whites. This can be attributed to Machiavelli's view of equality for all like in utopian society.

However, as earlier stated, Machiavelli's collective politics cannot work as something that President Mugabe has failed to see. This has led to conflicts since Mugabe's actions contributed to a corruption and nepotism in Zimbabwe. Refusal to work with foreign partners in fear of neocolonialism has led to sanctions against Zimbabwe and its citizens. Mugabe wants to be feared just like depicted in Machiavelli's The Prince, but not loved or respected like some world leaders who abide by democracy. Mugabe's government has violated democratic rules where the rights of individuals are not well safeguarded.

Some greedy individuals in government positions amass wealth-taking advantage of the common man whom they are supposed to serve. These are cabinet ministers in Zimbabwe and the president himself, who spends more than the taxpayers can afford despite the dwindling economy. This has caused high inflation rates leading to a complex scenario where the currency of the country expires after a given period. This has left Zimbabweans in a critical state where they can hardly afford the basic needs of life; food, health care, good houses and clean water.

Mugabe government failed to give a new constitution to the country as his attempts were defeated in 2000. Since then, the country has experienced deficiency of social norms because of bad governance, lack of media and civil society independence. All these aspects are usually aimed to protect the common man and create compromising judiciary.

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