Machiavelli?s The PrinceJust vs. Viable
To be just is to be fair and honorable. Kids are taught that if you are kind and just you will excel and be successful. But life’s not fair and being just doesn’t necessary mean that a society will stand the test of time and be able to grow. The two different societies introduced in More’s Utopia and Machiavelli’s The Prince are very different and although More’s Utopian society would be considered more just then Machiavelli’s society. Machiavelli’s society is more realistic and more likely to be viable.
Leadership is a major issue when it comes to whether or not a society is going to be viable. It seems that if the leader is a good leader, a leader that puts his people first and wants the best for his country, then the land and the society should flourish. But if the leader is a bad leader, a power driven leader, a leader who puts himself first, and lets his people starve while he and his nobles live in excess, then the society and land will not flourish. This idea is not demonstrated to us in Utopia or The Prince; it seems like the exact opposite.
Utopia has a more democratic government. Each set of households elects someone and then those elects elect others, and although there is a prince they still have the power to throw him out of office if he’s involved in any wrong doing. And although their prince doesn’t have as much power as a prince in Machiavelli’s writing the prince in Utopia serves a different purpose. The prince in Utopia is there to provide stability. With the syphogrants and tranibors changing annually the stability of a constant figure head is needed. More describes the government as follows
“Once a year, every group of thirty households elects an official,
Formerly called the syphogrant, but now called the phylarch. Over
Every group of ten syphogrants with their households there is another official, once called the tranibor but now known as the head phylarch. All the syphogrants, two hundred in number, are brought together to elect the prince. They take an oath to choose the man they think best qualified; and then by secret ballot they elect they prince from among four men nominated by the people of the four sections of the city. The prince holds office for life, unless he is suspected of aiming at a tyranny. Though the tranibors are elected annually they are not changed for light or casual reasons. All other officials hold office for a single year only. “
Any one can be a syphogrant or tranibor. And once you have a chance to be one you can not be re-elected. This prevents the same people from always being in office. And although you can campaign for office it is looked down upon. They believe the if you want the office that much you must have ulterior motives fueling you, so you wont be elected. They also had a rules whose purpose was to “prevent the prince and the tranibors from conspiring together to alter the government and enslave the people. ”
Although the Utopians are free, they don’t exercise their freedom and they have slaves. The slaves are people captured from other nations that don’t have Utopian ideals and Utopians that have committed a crime. More also says that
“Slaves, moreover, are permanent and visible reminder that crime does
not pay. If the slaves rebel against their condition, then, like savage beast
which neither bars nor chains can tame, they put instantly to death. But if
they are patient, they are not left altogether without hope. When subdued
by long hardships, if they show by their behavior that they regret the crime
more than the punishment, their slavery is lightened or remitted
altogether, sometimes by the prince’s pardon, sometimes by popular
Also all the Utopians think the same. This is the main reason why their society wouldn’t be viable although it is more just. The fact that they don’t value money and no one pays for anything, everyone just takes what they need, makes the Utopian society more just because everything seems fair. But it’s unrealistic, it’s not human nature. The Utopians as a society are very self centered, so it’s hard to believe that they would be such honest people. And the fact that they don’t fight their own wars and they don’t abide by any rules of war, they win by any means even if it means “fighting dirty.” The Utopians put on a front of having these great morals and being a great society, but its all smoke and mirrors. They make themselves look like a wonderful society. But they are the lesser of two evils, they are more just then the society in The Prince, although they aren’t as viable.
The government in The Prince is a monarchy, with a distinctive cast system. Machiavelli said that the best way to keep order in this kind of society was for the people to fear their leader but not to hate him because “the prince must have the people well disposed toward him; otherwise in times of adversity there is no hope. ” The prince had to keep the people, the nobles and the army all happy at the same time. The people were kept happy to keep them from bringing in an outside force and also for the fact that “a man who conspires against a popular prince must also be fearful after his crime is committed – since then he will have the whole people against him, and from there hate he can hope no refuge whatever. ” But the people aren’t too hard to please because most of the time they don’t care who is ruling over them as long as they are left alone. The nobles and advisers had to be kept happy so they would continue to be loyal to him. Machiavelli says the following about how the relationship between the prince and the advisers and nobles should be
“The man who holds a prince’s kingdom in his hand should not even be
aware of anything but his master’s business. And on the other hand, the
prince who wants to keep his minister obedient should think of his welfare,
honor him, enrich him, load him with distinctions and offices. Thus the
minister will not be able to stand without the prince, the many honors will
keep him from looking elsewhere for more honor, the many riches will
keep him for thinking of more riches, and the many offices will give him
reason to fear changes. When the prince and the his minister stand on
these terms, they can have complete confidence in one another; when
things are otherwise, they always turn out badly, either for one or the
The army had to be kept happy so he could maintain control over their troops. The troops were the most powerful of the three groups. So if all three could not be kept happy, they were satisfied first,
“and when they cannot escape some hatred, they should try as hard as
they can to avoid the hatred of the most powerful group around. Thus
emporers who were new in office and needed special support turned to the
soldiers rather than the people ”
The people in this society weren’t free. But they didn’t seem to mind as long as they could go on with there everyday life without being bothered. Even though they were a far from perfect society they learned that it was best to fight their own wars. They didn’t try and cover up their faults. And although a prince was expected to appear virtuous he was not necessarily suppose to be virtuous. But this society was in no way more just then the Utopian society, although this society was more viable. They had what it took to last, to grow and to flourish.
Both societies have there good points and both societies have their flaws. More imagined a new society, even though it still carried some remnants of the one he knew. And the Utopian society looked great on paper; they were very just and honorable people. But when examined in depth it falls apart. This society wouldn’t last people don’t think that way. Machiavelli criticized and critiqued history, he took things he knew and said how they could be made better for future societies. Except societies and societal ideas evolve, ideas that worked then don’t always work now. His society was based on backstabbing and deceitfulness, appearing virtuous but not actually being virtuous. So although his society would have lasted, it was far from just. But this is the opinion looking back at these texts. When these texts were written More and Machiavelli both thought these were the ideal societies. But if More and Machiavelli knew what people know now would their societal ideas still be what they were?