The Prince by Niccoló Machiavelli
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 1 April 2012

The Prince

Author: Niccoló Machiavelli

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

“One must be a fox in order to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves...”
I have read this controversial book two or three times yet will not presume to have a total grasp of all its teachings, nor even an intermediate comprehension of them (this is blurb 'hack' remember).

Suffice to say however, that I found it no surprise that The Prince has had much influence on business, war and politics. You need not venture too far from your computer to understand why Machiavelli's thoughts on leadership are still relevant today. A walk through the “business” and “self-help” sections in your local book store demonstrate the quantity of authors who have borrowed from the concepts presented in The Prince. Machiavelli's book differs from those user-friendly guides in that he does not comment on ethics or political correctness. He is objective on the subject of ruling differing kingdoms and this has often been (mis)judged as evil.

If you know little of the book's origin other than catch phrases such as “The ends justify the means.” and “Fortune favours the bold.” then I will add that this book was written, not for general publication, but rather to give advice to one man, Lorenzo De Medici and begins with a letter to him offering this gift. This was written for a very powerful man during a period of Italian history when rulers had much to fear from neighbouring powers. Similiar books had emerged at the time specifically on advising those who were to inherit kingdoms. The Prince stands out as it differs in a way that could be seen as ahead of his time, its ideals were not based on religious teachings or cultural traditions but rather objective action based on true historical examples of good and bad leadership practices.

Recent current affairs surrounding action, justification and fortune parallel themes in The Prince, which inspired me to revisit the text. In recent weeks, US President Obama proved that he isn't easily fooled into a traps with his handling of the birth certificate fiasco within his own walls. And in contrast was able to show his directness in ordering the assassination of Osama Bin Ladin abroad. Therefore being both fox and lion.

Machiavellen words are therefore ever present in human civility and cannot be ignorantly dismissed as evil, nor the cause of such. Machiavelli did not invent the things he explains but rather being an astute historian was able to find patterns in the actions of successful rulers from his time and those throughout history. I will not preach to follow or ignore this book, only that you read it before finding reasons to burn it.