The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (1514)

This forum is for members to share book reviews. All of us buy and read business books. Some are good and others a waste of money, so don't be shy; let us know what you think about the books you’ve read.
Post Reply
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 132
Joined: Wed 08 Sep 2010 1:38 pm
Location: Westminster - London

Here is an old classic that is as pertinent today as the day it was published in 1514. Naturally Machiavelli's work has been dissected and rewritten in numerous formats so getting a good copy that is factually significant can be a bit of a problem.

I have opted for the Oxford World Classic version.

Machiavelli's open, honest and somewhat critical writing style caused considerable alarm throughout the gentry of the time. This writer had the Gaul to not only analyse but also honestly report on the behind the scenes politics that was so evident in royal courts and government. However, do not be fooled or led into a false sense of security because these very same political games are not only played today in governments around the world but also un officially in most large companies and other private or public organisations.

There are many forms of Machiavellian behaviour but two main trains of thought associated to Machiavelli's philosophy stands out for business. The first is termed Machiavellian Thugary which is used as an aggressive form of promoting self interest and the second Machiavellian Entrepreneur which uses Machiavellian principles to further the aims of the company. Unfortunately the word Machiavellian today is associated with a direct insult and put down by people who openly would like everyone to believe that behind the scenes politics does not happen in business; or that the person expressing the word wants to convey to all and sunder that they do not engage in company politics. The real fact of the matter is that everyone engages in company politics at some level whether they admit to it or not.

Machiavelli on Machiavelli
It has to be noted that men must either be pampered or crushed, because they can get revenge for small injuries but not for grievous ones. So any injury a Prince does a man should be of such a kind that there is no fear of revenge (Machiavelli, 1514, pp 37-38)

So it should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once for all, and not have to renew then every day, and in that way he will be able to set men's minds at rest and win them over to him when he confreres benefits. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad advice, is always forced to have a knife ready to his hand and he can never depend on his subject because they, suffering fresh and continuous violence, can never feel secure with regard to him. Violence must be inflicted once for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful. Benefits must be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better (1514, p.66)

I wont expand on this example any further because of space and the fact that I would rather that you bought the book which only cost around three to four pounds on Amazon. However, you can see that even today the works and more importantly the ideas of Machiavelli are regarded highly controversial.

Whilst checking out the book The Prince why not spend an extra couple of pounds and check out some of his other work which are equally informative but focus on the subject material from a different perspective.

Kind regards

Stephan Toth
Post Reply