The Young Politicians: Machiavellian Belief

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Words: 1263 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

Words: 1263|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

Niccolo Machiavelli opens The Prince in full compliance with the behavioral laws he sets forth in following chapters; fitting with his brazen separation of ethics from politics, he meekly addresses Lorenzo de Medici with such words as "I hope it will not be thought presumptuous for someone of humble and lowly status to dare to discuss the behavior of rulers" (6) and "I therefore beg your Magnificence to accept this little gift of mine in the spirit in which it is sent" (6). In order to avoid "the unrelenting malevolence of undeserved ill fortune" (6), Machiavelli meets the standards of etiquette expected from his role as a commoner, thus subliminally introducing his utilitarian philosophy on virtue by feigning humility in order to win approval. At great odds with Aristotle in the area of morality, Machiavelli will not have any part of virtue unless it proves to serve some use to the ruler of a principality. Such is the reality of modern American life; as Machiavelli resolves not to ignore "the gap between how people actually behave and how they ought to behave" (48; Ch. 15), so are the everyday ethical motives of a democratic people impeded by worldly visions of capitalistic success and personal achievement.

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Despite Machiavelli's political focus in The Prince, his underlying goal for a successful principality--thereby creating power for the ruler and the greatest good for the greatest number-- finds certain magnetic attraction between the ideas of morality, practicality, and ambition in everyday life. As he does away with Aristotle's notion of habitual virtue, he points to a barefaced reality in our existence from the removed perspective of an observer; his circumstantial criteria for being virtuous is such that it insightfully addresses those background motivations for being good as not only sensible and reliable, but as deciding factors in acting well or wickedly. As individualist thinking has become the familiar canon for superiority, America has found a strangely Machiavellian generation of young adults that wants progress but lacks emotional success. Machiavelli advises the ruler, "If you are already a ruler, generosity is a mistake; if you are trying to become one then you do, indeed, need to be thought of as generous" (49; Ch. 16). The connection he makes between compassionate generosity and heightened status are not inapplicable to modern circumstance. History instills in middle-to-upper-class Americans a sense of privilege, intellectual and economic prosperity, thus driving the aspiring young citizen to empathize with society's dejected, and to compound that social service with the opportunity to be recognizably good at it. Thus is the bind of today's Christian-American young adult---he vacillates between higher purpose and haughty transcendence, knowing that "nothing does more to give a ruler a reputation than embarking on great undertakings and doing remarkable things" (67; Ch. 21).

The sixteenth-century philosopher promotes a ruler's fervent attention towards already-famous figures of the past: "Above all he should set himself to imitate the actions of some admirable historical character, as great men have always imitated their glorious predecessors..." (47; Ch. 14). As Machiavelli suggests a selectivity among those who acquire glory, today's metropolitan society perpetuates the fear of invisibility in the present and elapsed identity in the hereafter. Christian life principles that were once firmly installed in America's spiritual center fall second behind the demands of progress; the pace of everyday life quickens with violent crassness, and rather than slow down, we desperately work not to be left behind. Machiavelli's straightforward talk of practical needs within chaotic times, though morally unsetting, mirrors the present situation of the individual through the scope of fast modernization. No capitalistic atrocities have swayed the souls of a species that cherishes virtue, but a great deal of youthful minds can indeed be typified to relish the opportunity for earthly glory, with or without a higher search for truth. With the will to do well, but the drive, also, to do better than one's peer, the pursuit of success finds any frustrated American adult at the brink of intellectual or monetary success and personal, moral disaster.

Surprisingly, Machiavelli pauses before critically analyzing the strength of ecclesiastical states, for he recognizes the unmatched power he has to contend with: "So these are the only rulers that are secure and happy. But because they are ruled by a higher power, which human intelligence cannot grasp, I will say no more about them; for, since they have been built up and maintained by God, only a presumptuous and rash person would debate about them" (36; Ch. 11). Within religious principalities, Machiavelli finds the only principled rulers that may stay within the boundaries of their religion and find political success at the same time. So, too, does the American social philosophy deem Christian ideals necessary in maintaining a spiritual status quo while in search of grand-scale accomplishment; Christian commands do not lack their immediacy in the present day, but are simply lost to a young people governed by a whirlwind of fragmented virtues. The state governs primarily, and "religion," a strange old coined term, is obscured behind skyscrapers and billboards aimed at the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Machiavelli's respect for the usefulness of religious virtues lives on in this era of material convenience, and the general run of today's confused youth cultivates moral values when needed, creating a falsified ethical foundation for self-serving social work. While acknowledging that such religious states are "built up and maintained by God" (36; Ch. 11), Machiavelli does not disregard the earthly possibility of making wrong an effective form of right, stating the viewpoint highly opposed to those of his predecessors, "Prudence consists in knowing how to assess risks and in accepting the lesser evil as a good" (70; Ch. 21). Whatever could possibly be the natural state of man extracted from civilization has become something definitively relegated to the past, as centuries ago Machiavelli did not waste time in determining the natural drive to be "good" or "bad." The fundamental morals of the country alongside capitalistic messages to the new generation of young adults create individuals that are perpetually in conflict with themselves. In the spirit of Machiavelli's "religion of practicality," we "[show] [ourselves] to be generous and understanding...but at the same time always retaining [our] authority and dignity" (70; Ch. 21). Longing for recognition in a world that gives him none, the driven American amateur has a mind for humble fame, wanting solidarity with the world and status within it at the same time.

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Today's American youth wants to be indispensable to the race, both as an irreplaceable element to the whole of human life and as a shining finalist at the finish line, forever remembered and always modeled. We foster a Machiavellian ambition that advises us to employ religious ideals while recognizing the present demands of society as they really are: "Do not be afraid of your own shadow. Employ policies that are moderated by prudence and sympathy. Avoid excessive self-confidence, which leads to carelessness, and avoid excessive timidity, which will make you insupportable" (51; Ch. 17). Modern society's utilitarianism of personal virtue confuses the search for truth with the prospect of civic enterprise, and young go-getters raised on basic Christian values want to touch the hearts of their friends, but also leave the power of their names carved on the souls of America. Despite the separation of Church and State, personal politics and ethics obscurely intertwine. The blood makeup inside us is thick and difficult, yet we still call ourselves Christian, aching to know the way to unload this paralyzing muck of blind ambition.

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The Young Politicians: Machiavellian Belief. (2018, April 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
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