Discussion Of Whether The End Justifies The Means On The Example Of Joseph Stalin
In the book, The Prince, the phrase ‘the ends justify the means’, was famously written by Niccolò Machiavelli in 1532 that illustrates how to acquire and maintain political power. Interpreting the lesson would be that “rulers must not be guided by conventional ideas of virtue and morality”, meaning that the ends does justify the means no matter the consequence. But in according to one’s plan, justifying the means can be interpreted very differently, meaning it can be situational. I do believe that the doctrine “the ends justify the means” can be accepted but with conditions. A morally right outcome does not justify the use of immoral actions to arrive at that solution. When contemplating the doctrine, there are a few things to consider, the action, the outcome, and the individual performing the action. Now, lets clear things up by expressing examples at how this concept was used negatively or positively and the outcomes from it.
Harsh (2015) researched Machiavelli’s basic principle for being a leader, stating that if you want to be a leader then you need power to do it and do all in your power to hold that position. Harsh (2015) even went on to list some selected beliefs of a Machiavellian leader:
- Don’t manage by agreement. Do it yourself.
- When you win power, you need to show strong leadership immediately.
- If you don’t have a clue what’s going on, just get your hands dirty.
- Unpopular decisions will bring hatred and resentment.
- When you are under pressure, you have to defend only the important stuff.
- When you are in charge, being loved is optional, better to be respected.
- Deceit is usually easier than you think – if the people that you are lying to have an interest in being deceived.
- Being in charge lets you tell the story your way and in your own time.
- When two people fight each other, the weaker one becomes your friend.
- If you’ve had a setback, don’t wait for someone else to make it right.
All Harsh’s beliefs of a Machiavellian leader are at their upmost understanding of Machiavelli’s principals. A Machiavellian leader does not make friends, they will not allow someone to get to close, protecting their reign. They prefer to be feared then loved protecting their own interests only. In history, there have been many Machiavellian leaders. Let’s take a look at one now.
Joseph Stalin, a Soviet Union leader, went through great length to keep the union with its communist beliefs. He had a plan for Russia and did everything in his power to achieve that plan. To achieve his goals of making Russia a superpower, he committed many horrible crimes against the people, killing around 60 million during his reign. Hingley described Stalin as, “a skilled but phenomenally ruthless organizer, he destroyed the remnants of individual freedom and failed to promote individual prosperity, yet he created a mighty military – industrial complex and led the Soviet Union into the nuclear age”. In Machiavelli’s, The Prince, teaches that the ruler should have the fear of the people, and Stalin did just that. He murdered so many people, the strong and intellectual, to prevent any opposition and creating fear from the weak that would never resist. Here we see that Stalin was playing a game for power and justified his actions. Although, some people might consider Stalin’s actions to justify the needs of communist party, he does not meet the needs to the people in the society.
In sum, we can see how Joseph Stalin knowingly and willingly practiced fear for his agenda to gain power for the communist party. Gray (2013) explained that “rulers were justified in using the most ruthless methods, but only if the ends they pursued were achievable and worthwhile.” What I believe that Machiavelli meant to teach us was to do what we need to do to achieve our goals even if it means pushing aside one integrity. Only now, in different times from when the book was written, now would be to do everything in one’s power to achieve the goals set forth to better the world even if it means alienating people along the way.
- Gray, John. (2013). What Machiavelli knew: It’s a delusion to believe, as the western powers do, that law can ever supplant politics. And in politics, achievable and worthwhile ends justify the means. New Statesman, 142(5166), 24.
- Harsh, A. (2015). Do You Know a Machiavellian Leader? Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/do-you-know-machiavellian-leader-anurag-harsh
- Hingley, R. F. (2019, March 08). Joseph Stalin: Premier of Soviet Union. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Stalin
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