Thursday, August 4, 2011

Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince: Sections XIV-XIX": A Summary

You should probably be a fucking boss at war. If you wanted to juggle you, should have been a juggler. You're a Prince, dammit, and if you're shitty at war, your enemies will be relentless, and your soldiers will be like, "this motherfucker has no idea what he's doing, and we have to die? Fuck that." And now you've got a rebellion on your hands. See? This is why we can't have nice fiefdoms.

Instead, you should always be on your toes. If shit is peaceful right now, don't kick back for a leisurely bubble bath - this is your chance to get way the fuck ahead in preparation, so that when someone does invade, they're like, "Holy shit, it's like he's been preparing for this attack for years!" You sure have.

Wouldn't it be great if shit was all unicorns and rainbows, and you were perfect? This is the real world, sunshine, and you better know how and when to be a little evil. You don't need to be the perfect human being to succeed; you only need to be good enough.

You should be cheap as fuck. Yeah, people love a generous prince, until the bill comes and they have to pay taxes for it. Sure, at first they'll be like, "man, this fucking guy doesn't even have velvet suits for his hunting dogs. What the fuck kind of poor-ass prince is he?" And then when tax time comes they'll be like, "That's it? Really? I take it back, this dude fucking rocks." Plus, that way if you get invaded, you won't have to try to squeeze money out of an oppressed populace. They'll be thrilled to give you extra taxes because they know it's for an important thing: not getting their shit ransacked. If they're already poor and you're like, "hey, I need that slice of bread, too." They'll just wonder where all the other tax money went. And also, they'll try to hate you to death. I've seen it happen.

I'm not saying you can't splurge once in a while if you have the money. A big fucking festival from time to time makes the people think you care; spending the extra money on good armor and supplies lets your armies know they're taken care of. If you're going to splurge, you make it fucking rain on those peons. "He's a miserly fuck, but I'll be damned if he doesn't know how to party and fight." That's what we're going for.

But look, don't go trying to buy love from your people or from anyone else. That's fucking stupid. 'Love' is only held together by a feeling of obligation, and when people feel like they stop owing you for your generosity, they will not hesitate to fuck your shit up if it helps them. That's why you should make them fear the living shit out of you. If your people threaten rebellion and you're like, "Hey! Another party!" you've only put them off until the end of that party. But if you're like, "Hey! Look at all these headless fathers of children!" I mean, the rebellion will practically stop itself. Besides, you were going to have to kill them all anyways if they tried to overthrow you. No need for that mess. Fear keeps things nice and tidy.

It's better for dealing with other princes, too. If they love you they'll think, "Man, that one guy sends me presents but honestly, I can just buy them myself if I conquer and tax his people." If they fear you they'll think, "That guy? Nooope. I'm not trying to have my head boiled in chicken shit. He does that, I heard."

Just make sure people know everything is cool as long as they don't fuck with you, and you're golden. Fear is useful as fuck if you do it right. Men control whether they love you, but you control whether they fear you.

Maybe you're thinking, "well, I can make my people fear me, but at least I'll be honest with them about how shit goes down." Goddamn it, sunshine, it's that kind of stupid optimism that's going to get your ass deposed. It doesn't matter how big your armies are  if an assassin is just going to sneak in and poison you; you have to be strong and cunning. Everyone lies; if people are just going to use your word against you, you're perfectly justified in breaking your word. All you really need to do is learn how to hide it. When you fuck someone up after you promised not to, just make sure you come up with a good excuse - "Oh. I, uh, I caught him having relations with, uh, my goats. I know I promised to protect him, but that's over the line, don't you think?" And everyone will be like, "Oh! See? I knew he wouldn't do that without a good reason. It's cool everybody, that guy was a goatfucker. We can still trust the Prince!" Got 'em.

So this is the key: just make sure your people don't hate you. Hatred makes people do irrational shit, and the whole point of fear is that it would be fucking stupid to try to attack you. If they hate you, they'll do fucking stupid shit anyway. So, you know, don't be greedy, and leave women and property alone. As long as men have their things and their wives and feel mostly safe, they're chill. Add to that the fact that you've got a badass army because you don't waste money and that your people are terrified to plot against you, and you're fucking set. You'll lose power chasing after respect, but you'll never lose respect in securing power.

Also: keep your soldiers happy. If your soldiers are pissed, your mud-covered peasants in sackcloth singing songs to your generosity aren't going to be much help in a rebellion. On the other hand, if your people storm your happily-guarded castle with sticks and stones, well, see how that works out for them, ya dig? Haters are going to hate; you just have to make sure that the more they hate you, the less powerful they are.  



Remember: you're a goddamn Prince; your job is to rule. Don't be stupid about it, and don't let anything stop you from succeeding in that task.


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You can read "The Prince" online here or, if you prefer, get The Prince (Dover Thrift Editions) in hardcopy from Amazon.

9 comments:

  1. As usual an excellent summary by PhiloBro.
    Machiavelli was an interesting bro in that the work he was most known for was the work he invested himself the least in. Machiavelli has the reputation for being a ruthless son-of-a-bitch, yes, but what people don't realize is that The Prince is a satire of the Medicis who were in power at the time in Italy. Machiavelli's other political works almost give the opposite perspective of the Prince.

    As a bonus, in psychology, 'Machiavellianism' is used to describe anti-social behavior commonly found in sociopaths. So you know. Take that how you will.

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  2. Heh... It's worth pointing out here that Machiavelli almost certainly intended The Prince as satire. After all, at the time he wrote it, he was actually in prison for agitating in favour of transitioning to a republic. Also, he wrote several other, less well known pieces, both before and after The Prince, in support of democratic republics. Some scholars even theorise that his purpose was to offer advice that would look sensible to a short-sighted tyrant, but would ultimately guarantee his downfall.

    So, yeah, probably not intended to be taken seriously.

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  3. PsychologyBro: it's funny you should mention that, because the first bro I thought of while reading this summary was Lorenzo de' Medici as portrayed in Assassin's Creed II and AC: Lineage. Chill and cordial on the outside, but ruthless enough to have some enemies assassinated and tortured on the inside. It seems the bros at Ubisoft did at least some of their homework.

    Or maybe I'm just exceptionally impressionable for learning history from fucking video games.

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  4. Awesome summary Bro!
    Not only do you make the content perfectly clear, it's funny as shit! I mean it's one thing to summarize philosophy, but to make it as amusing and engaging as you do? Awesome.

    "I'm not trying to have my head boiled in chicken shit. He does that, I heard." (inhuman cruelty?)
    -priceless

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  5. Well DONE my bro. By the way, I haven't noticed as many of your classic summaries lately. The Mailbag Mondays are great and all, but I feel like this is the real meat and tits of the operation, and I'm honestly left wanting more.

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  6. Loved it, and I hope that you do some of Machiavelli's other works in the future, especially those on republics.

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