Thursday, July 2, 2015

Redeeming Machiavelli

Machiavelli was the founder of modern political science and also a supreme theorist of power.Machiavelli judges actions as good or bad based on their consequences.But what many people don't know is that he was a scholar of 'grand politics'.“The Prince is about the kind of grand politics that open the path to glory; it was written for the founders of new and good political orders and for the redeemers of countries and people, let no one be surprised," wrote Machiavelli, "if in speaking of entirely new principalities as I shall do, I adduce the highest examples both of prince and of state."Machiavelli's The Prince was written for the purpose of creating or defining an ideal prince who is redeemer of Italy, as stated in final chapter of The Prince. His book is not about politics but about grand politics- the politics of great men, the great men whose actions bought glory for their republic and they thus remained immortals. For Machiavelli the greatest person is a redeemer, his ideal redeemer was Moses and draws his teaching from the antiquity. Cesare Borgia lacked in fulfilling his dream due to his weakness. Machiavelli doesn't teach us evil deeds but he as a supreme historian advises that most redeemers in past found themselves necessitated to do evil and thus they did.

For Machiavelli, politics has to provide a shelter against the evils that tormented men's life, beginning with ambition and avarice, the causes of discord and war. Ambition and avarice penetrate every city and village to deprive men of most precious benefit of peace. They are naked, seductive, all embracing, they came followed by envy, sloth, hatred, cruelty, pride and deceit. When they enter in men's hearts, their mind becomes insatiable, arrogant, violent, crafty and shifting.On 6th May 1527 King Charles of Spain took over Rome as predicted by Machiavelli. Medici Pope was defeated and Medici left Florence. The new republican government however didn't return Machiavelli to his post as Secretary, in past because his fellow Florentines disliked the fact that in the last few years had associated himself with Medici but above all because they were not prepared to forgive him 'for his greatness which made him different from others in his ways, bold in his words and frank in his vices'.

Rather than treating history as unfolding of impersonal forces an approach stressed by political thinkers like Hegel and Marx, Machiavelli grounded his science in psychology of men. Machiavelli was himself the least Machiavellian of men.He was honest, uncorrupt, patriotic and a good father.

After Machiavelli was released from prison in 1513 he was desperate to gain employment but unfortunately couldn't.Greatly discouraged Machiavelli withdrew to his little farm at Sant Andrea in order to be at a distance from every human face.In the belief to gain his position back by writing 'The Prince' but invain. Machiavelli wrote the book in order to let Medici know of his supreme art of politics; he wanted them follow him rather the other way. In the brief space of month his dearest aspirations for which he had fought all his life, the liberation of Italy from barbarian domination and his return to a post of responsibility in a free republican government in Florence were brutally crushed. Machiavelli did found women much more generous than men. In darkest moments of his life, when he was jobless, penniless he found in Reccia 'so much faith and compassion'. When this was reported to Vettori he replied " women love fortune and not men".

 Machiavelli believed that experience of forgetfulness that love with women permits is remarkably similar to the feeling he experiences when he reaches his study place to continue writing 'The Prince' which he described in famous letter to Vettori on 10 December 1513:
“When evening comes, I return home and go into my study. On the threshold I strip off my muddy, sweaty, workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the antique courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity, reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death: I pass indeed into their world.”

Machiavelli's country villa at Percussin,Tuscany where he wrote his masterpiece 'The Prince' during exile.
Machiavelli wrote the Prince during exile and while jobless.It was written at time of crises and out of depression.As Machiavelli sat down to write, his career lay in ruins and the loss of his salary threatened to plunge him into humiliating poverty.Surrounded by ghosts or immortals of history and the contemplation of eternal truths Machiavelli forgot his current misery and began writing his masterpiece.

"I love my country more than my soul."
Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli remarks that glory is praise given to right actions and reputation for great merits in service of republic which is approved not merely by testimony of multitude but by witness of all best men. Machiavelli states that what Cesare gained was power and not glory. By Machiavelli's standards military prowess and ability to preserve one's power are not sufficient to attain glory. Machiavelli specifies that Cesare doesn't deserve to be ranked 'among finest men'. It has been argued that Machiavelli's choice of Cesare Borgia to become hero of the Prince was a grave error from the standpoint of his late reputation as Cesare committed crimes on his way of power. Machiavelli argues that whoever has the power should follow the path outlined by Cesare Borgia but in doing so he must attain glory or the cruelty will not be justified. Cesare violated morality or moral norms. However it is notoriously quoted, Machiavelli accepted that the violations of moral norms can have justification, "in action of men, especially of princess, the end justifies the means."Borgia is praised in The Prince for having recognized without hesitation that mercenaries are uncertain and unfaithful and deserve to be wiped out.Borgia raised his own army and made himself sole master of his own troops.Machiavelli advises "he who diligently examines past events easily foresees future ones and can apply to them remedies used by ancients."

From writing in Discourses, it becomes obvious that Machiavelli believes Republics to be stable political system as opposed  to Monarchy or tyranny. Machiavelli concludes that the crucial insight common to all wisest legislators of antiquity can be very simply expressed.They all perceived that the three pure constitutional forms: monarchy, aristocracy and democracy are inherently unstable and tend to generate a cycle of corruption and decay, thus they proposed for establishing a mixed constitution, one in which the instabilities of pure forms are corrected while their strengths are combined.As always, Rome furnished the clearest example: it was because she managed to evolve a 'mixed government' that she finally rose to become a 'perfect republic'.
The Prince is a handbook for aspirants to political power, developing power is necessary prerequisite for peace and order. As Machiavelli famously said" if you have good arms then you can have good laws". The perfect example of power comes from the Prince, the episode concerning Cesare Borgia and his minister Messer Remirro. When Cesare took Romagna it was ruled by weak rulers and so the subjects were spoiled rather than governed and there was rebellion in City. What Cesare did was in Machiavelli's eyes the best way to get things in order. Cesare put ruthless Remirro de Orco in charge of restoring order, which he did well. However, Remirro de Orco was so cruel that everyone hated him, so to deflect bad feeling from himself, Borgia had him executed. Machiavelli claims that in that case, cruelty was necessary. It is the combination of cruelty with legal procedures that helps to transform cruelty into common good. Reputation is a possible consequence of strategic thinking. So it is important to have a good reputation for successful government and strategic thinking should be concealed and only good aspects of it to be shown to public in order to have good reputation. As in the Prince Machiavelli states "it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, religious and sincere", but he also added "but you must have a mind so disposed that when it is needful you may be able to change to opposite qualities".Sentences like these are the source of Machiavelli's bad reputation over centuries. But Machiavelli was not hypocrite, his philosophy may seem moral to only those who agree with his line "end justifies the means". So Machiavelli's approach to 'means' is first by morally accepted way but if it is not possible then immoral way to reach the good 'end'. This violation of morality is only for the ruler though and common men must abide by laws and order.Machiavelli wrote 'I will never fear to cite Cesare Borgia and his actions, too much mercy allows disorder to go on from which springs the killings or depredations".

Machiavelli fully endorses the classical view that there is clear distinction between fame and glory. Glory only constitutes to deeds which bring greater good for everyone in a state or society. Power and fame if doesn't bring greater good for state or its individuals then they would not be attached to word glory. For glory Machiavelli gives example of Lorenzo de Medici (il Magnifico) who upon his return from dangerous diplomatic mission in which he has put his own life at risk for his fatherland was received as a 'great man'. Machiavelli considered love of glory as only motive that could drive leaders to accomplish the grand deeds that they alone can accomplish- that is founding republics and kingdoms. Machiavelli considered himself to be the expert on 'arte dello stato' or statecraft. In a famous letter to Vettori dated 10 December 1513 Machiavelli writes 'if Medici read the Prince, it would be evident that during the fifteen years I have been studying the art of state I have neither slept nor fooled around.

Machiavelli’s father borrowed Aristotle’s Ethics, there is proof that Machiavelli was acquainted with the language of lawand civil jurisprudence and the traces of his acquaintance are visible in all his works.At the very outset of his book ‘Discources’ Machiavelli writes civil law is nothing but a collection of decisions made by jurists. For him the civil community is based upon the rule of law and common good.He considers rule of just laws be the core of civil and political policies which were written by Plato and Aristotle. For his statement ‘ it is far safer to be feared than loved’ Machiavelli states that men are devoted to you and will fight for you if you are a benefit to them. But when you are hard pressed they turn away.So as men are less hesitant about offending a ruler who makes himself loved than one who inspires fear.

"When act accuses the doer, the result should excuse him." 

Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli's statue in Uffizi Gallery in Florence

Machiavelli composed all of his political works in a manner of rhetorician following the rules illustrated by Roman masters of rhetoric, particularly Cicero, Quintilion and the anonymous author of ‘Rhetorica an Herennium’.Like other Florentines of his social status, Machiavelli received a training in rhetoric. In his dedication of ‘The Prince’ Machiavelli writes that he is offering the product of knowledge of the ‘conduct of great men’ he has attained through “long experience of modern affairs and continual study of ancient history and what he has learnt in so many years and with much difficulty and dangers”.As an advisor on matters of state, Machiavelli is committed to a particular type of truth, which he calls ‘theories or speculations on matters’ based upon knowledge.’ For Machiavelli politics is beyond ‘good and evil’. Machiavelli offers advice on how to attain security and praise, not on how to do or not to do, what is right and good. He is not speaking as a philosophers who believes in existence of moral truth but as a rhetorician whose aim is more modestly to indicate the best means to attain praise and avoid blame.

Machiavelli was never trusted as a republican writer mainly because of his service to the ruling family, Medici. He was not given the Secretary of the State post in 1527 which he once held till 1512.What damaged him most was not his service to Medicis but his book ’The Prince’.The good thought him sinful and the wicked thought him more wicked so all hated him. His reputation came to restoration when Albertico Gentili landed as a Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford University. In 1585 he wrote on Machiavelli and praised him as an author with unique prudence and learning. He defended Machiavelli as a strong supporter of democracy, mainly because of ‘Discources’.Almost a century later he was called by Spinoza a ‘wise man’ and an advocate of freedom. In Rousseau’s Social Contract, Rousseau states while appearing to instruct Kings he had done much to educate the people. Machiavelli’s The Prince is book of Republican. Machiavelli’s republicanism was of a rather special sort because it contained a strain of monarchism in so far as he believed that even republics could not come into existence without help of great individual personalities- as Friedrich Meinecke put it Nietzsche was influenced by Machiavelli.

Machiavelli speaks of just laws, laws and statutes that aim at common good for everyone. He stresses that corruption occurs when only the powerful proposed law. In Discources Machiavelli praises social conflict between people and nobles in Rome as a major cause of preservation of liberty. Machiavelli states that a city state can be said to be free if it has good laws which restrain the bad humors of both the nobles and people. In a republic Machiavelli writes in Discources that citizens are more confident that their children ‘will have chance to become rulers’, if they are virtuous.  Machiavelli also endorses that honored and distinguished citizens should be appointed to highest offices of republic.Machiavelli states that corruption of customs of the habits of citizens, their unwillingness to put common good above private interest destroys a republic. He also stated that fear of God is vital for a state to remain uncorrupted. He also states that another cause of corruption is princely or monarchical rule. People who live under rulers don’t know how to govern themselves so they will be always a target of another ruler. Rule of law and rule of men are both essential components of Machiavelli’s republican theory. One cannot exist or continue to exist without the other. The kind of political action that Machiavelli glorifies is not the implementation of moral truth, or search of power. It is extraordinary achievement of founders and redeemers of civil communities, grand work of rulers and magistrates, it is citizen’s willingness to serve the common good and their strength to resist the ambition of the powerful. He sees politics as perfection of human intelligence, made possible by one passion alone-that is by love of country.

How different is world that Machiavelli conjures.Instead of a rationally ordered world, he presents a world governed by caprice, filled by violence, subject to sudden inexplicable transformations plunged by chaos and inhospitable to men and all his deeds.Machiavelli observed that things of this world are variable and so does the behaviors and attitudes of people. So a wise prince must be willing to change his course readily.

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