he Prince” is one of the most influential books published in Western literature, and people have been getting it wrong for five hundred years.
British philosopher Bertrand Russell, for example, dismissed Machiavelli’s canonical work as “a handbook for gangsters.”
A typical misconception, according to Giuliano Amato, a former prime minister of Italy, who this week opened an exhibition at the Italian Embassy entitled “Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince and its Era, 1513-2013.” In reality, according to Mr. Amato, “like him or not, Machiavelli was the creator of political science” and “The Prince” a seminal political essay that remains relevant today.
Well, in a way. Machiavelli’s work is a treatise on how to achieve absolute power and retain it. That’s why it’s called “The Prince” and not “The Democratically Elected Leader.” Its main theme (though never actually stated) is that the end — no matter how immoral — justifies the means. Its impact lies in the fact that it presents the most important questions of politics and morality in stark terms.
British political theorist Isaiah Berlin said Machiavelli “helped cause men to