The Relevance Of Machiavelli’s Teaching In The Prince In Our Democratic Era
In his teachings, Machiavelli argues that the absolute goal of politics is to achieve the well-being of society by ensuring political stability. To achieve this goal, it is acceptable to deviate from moral principles and use any methods necessary. To put it simply, ‘The Prince’ needs to act according to the principle of ‘The end justifies the means’. If such an approach in politics was quite characteristic at the time when Machiavelli wrote his work, it is difficult to imagine the application of his ideas in the modern democratic world. The current political system requires governments’ leaders to maintain transparency in their actions, humanity, and honesty. Moreover, the violent behavior of the state in relation to its citizens and other states causes a strong public outcry and reaction of the world community in the face of International Organizations. However, it should also be noted that in addition to the principle of ‘the end justifies the means’, Machiavelli also focuses on the need to maintain a balance between the warring parties in the state, in particular between ordinary people and the elite. He suggests that such a conflict of the parties exists in every state and maintaining a balance in this matter contributes to political stability in the country. Therefore, it may be a reason why the teachings of Machiavelli still do not lose their relevance in matters of both domestic and foreign policy of modern states.
Recognizing the imperfection of human nature, Machiavelli argues that in any political system there is a conflict between the rich and the poor classes. This conflict will become more pronounced if the laws are more favorable to one of them. If a person from a wealthy class gains power, he can turn into a tyrant and thereby corrupt power. If rich people, who usually constitute a minority of the population, receive power they will rule according to their personal ambitions. The similar thing will happen if ordinary people access to power. According to Machiavelli, if one of the listed groups begins to dominate the country, then this will certainly lead to the loss of freedom and virtu of the state. In such cases, where the conflict between the classes reaches the boiling point such as civil war, the country needs a The Prince who can establish laws to balance the situation between the aforementioned groups. This person should be truly virtuous, since he needs to stabilize the situation in the state and at the same time to remain in power. It is noteworthy that for Machiavelli, virtu means the ability to take advantage of fortuna and at the same time not become its hostage, win fame and honor, and provide the country with security. In his understanding, virtu has little to do with moral principles. At the same time, fortuna means luck. It can be detrimental to the prince who does not have the virtu to maintain stability in the state.
Lee Kwan Yew, who was the prime minister of Singapore from 1959 until 1990, may be considered as a modern example of the virtuous prince. Since the attempts to strengthen relations with Malaysia were unsuccessful, Singapore separated from it in 1965. The country was in a dire economic and social condition and needed a further plan to stabilize the situation. We can note that thanks to the fortuna, Lee Kwan Yew has now become the head of an independent state. If it was not for the failed negotiations with Malaysia, Lee Kwan Yew might still be the Prime-Minister of Singapore which is subordinate to Malaysia, but not independent. Machiavelli also pays particular attention to the need for liberty for the state. He believes that only countries that are free from any internal and external types of imposed political subordination will be able to further increase their wealth and extend their lands. After separating from Malaysia and becoming an independent and free country, Singapore under the auspices of the leader, Lee Kuan Yew, began to rapidly increase its economic performance. Using the fortune, the Prime Minister took the initiative into his own hands and began to attract foreign investment in the country. Subsequently, he managed to raise the country to a new stage of development in medicine, education, security and management. The ability of Lee Kuan Yew to seize the opportunity and achieve political stability and security in the country makes him a truly virtuous leader.
In conclusion, although current political system requires political leaders’ transparency and humanity in decision-making, Machiavelli’s ideas on mediating and balancing between conflicting groups in state is still relevant in modern politics. Increased dominance of one conflicting side over the other is detrimental to political stability and may lead to civil war. In this case, the resort to virtuous leader is crucial. Such a ruler must be truly virtuous since along with stabilizing the state, he also needs to maintain his power.
- George, T. (1973), Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore (London: Andre Deutsch).
- Machiavelli, N. (1513), The Prince.
- Skinner, Q. (1981), Machiavelli (New York: Hill and Wang).
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