Machiavelli on the Art of Power

All powerful men in Pakistan, without exception, are in practice work exactly according to the following 17 principles laid down by the realist Italian thinker Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) in his book ‘The Prince’. The book consists mainly of the tips on the art of power for effective discipline and authority in the affairs of state. Today, these principles are followed alike by all powerful men and women; whether politicians, generals, bureaucrats or feudal lords, mafia, bosses and business tycoons. Even the dumbest person can acquire power and gain influence by applying Machiavelli’s rules.

Here are the rules.

  1. Better To Be Feared Than Loved – a person would wish to be both loved and feared but it is difficult to unite them in one person. It is much safer to be feared than loved. Being loved consistently by others is very risky. It requires continuous devotion and affection which is not easy. Hence, one should rely on fear that one creates in the mind of others. But care should be taken that fear is not taken to the extent of being hated as it will produce just the opposite. If you can’t win love, avoid the hatred.
  2. Use Force Ruthlessly – Be inspiring in the use of force. Use brutal force with intelligence but avoid the senseless use of force. Enforce your will without any respect for the suffering of others.
  3. Act s a Fox and Lion – There are two ways of setting the disputes; one is by law and other is by force. Law corrects men but force corrects beasts. But force should be used by acting as brave as lion and as cunning as a fox. If you don’t play this game then you will be victim of the same tactic from your enemy.
  4. Use Persuasion Artfully – Use propaganda and religion for lulling the people into peace and submission. Roman policy was nicely furthered by skillfully playing upon the religious feelings of the people.
  5. Act Decisively – Avoid hesitation in implementing the decision. Uncertainty will leads only to ruination. Be certain and be assertive.
  6. Be Popular Among the People – Win over the love and affection of people. Gain a reputation among the majority. But be careful in giving undirected concessions.
  7. Abstain from Property and Women of Subjects – Do not, under any circumstance, resort to plundering property and molesting the women of your subjects. Do not break this rule. Never. Zip. Nada.
  8. Act as a Father – If a father wants unity in the family and obedience to his orders, he must rule firmly. He should not be too kind as it will be taken as laxity. He should not be a hard pusher as that will lead to revolt. You should keep in mind your primary duty, that is, to hold your subjects together.
  9. Avoid Excessive Expenditure – Do not show excessive generosity under any circumstance. Be efficient with your money and avoid being too lavish. Money is your lifeline to power. Think long term.
  10. Act as a Great Pretender - A powerful man must act as  a great pretender and dissembler. If you want power then appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious and upright. In posing so, you can even break your promises and go back to your word without losing your integrity. Pretend.
  11. Pose as Courageous – A powerful individual must appear courageous and daring. He must appear to possess great determination and strength of will. Your subjects should feel assured   that they can rely upon you in an emergency.
  12. Play Balance of Power Game – In case of dispute, always side one way or the other party. If possible, one should play the balance of power game by supporting the weaker against the stronger. Neutrality brings no dividends in the game of power.
  13. Avoid Flatterers – Love for flattery is the greatest weakness of persons in authority. It has the same intoxicating affect as alcohol, inflating the ego and disarming the judgement. Avoid yes-men.
  14. Be an Opportunist – If you want to gain power than you must be an opportunist of the first water. Always bear in mind that there are no permanent friends or enemies. Power itself dictates to choose friends with reference to the degree of promotion of personal interest. Extend your authority or perish.
  15. Be Extreme towards a Friend or Enemy – Take them seriously. Do everything to help a friend. On the contrary, destroy the enemy before he gains roots of power.
  16. Observes Utmost Secrecy – In conducting the affairs, making plans, framing strategies etc. observe topmost secrecy as all schemes will fail if the secrecy fails.
  17. Possess Virtue –  A successful and powerful person must be an embodiment of virtue. Here virtue means combination of skills and intelligence. What is needed for political and personal success is the clear perception of what and how things actually are, then accurate adjustment of means to end and finally ruthless execution with sufficient force.
The separation of ethics from power politics is the essence of Machiavellism. These rules are not moral or immoral. These rules are rather amoral in nature and followed in spirit by the successful rulers. Machiavelli was the apostle of power politics. He writes about nothing and, like our politicians, thinks about nothing except politics, statecraft and art of war.  Machiavelli’s philosophy is universally disowned in principle and theory, but has been regularly followed in practice by the successive Pakistani leaderships. 


Allison West said... [Reply]

I think Robert Greene (author of 48 laws of power) was inspired by these 17 laws that you have mentioned ! Anyhow, very inspirational and uplifting post. Self-pity is not the answer. Great write!

Geri O Hara said... [Reply]

This is an interesting read. It seems things aren’t much different across the pond! Thanks for sharing an enriching post:)

floydian said... [Reply]

@Allison West
Yep! Robert Grene was inspired by Machiavelli's Prince. I have read the book 48 Laws of power and highly recommend it to everyone. Thanks for your thoughts.

@Geri O Hara
Yea things are alike everywhere in the corridors of power. Political leaders across the world are indeed following Machiavelli's principles on the art of government and power politics. Appreciate your comment.

jason said... [Reply]

Its a good post but the title is misleading. You have not covered Machiavelli's tips on the art of war. I guess many principles are missing.

floydian said... [Reply]


Thanks for your views. Your objection is part valid. I have intentionally ommitted the
following rules:

- to be expert in the art of war and use of weapons
- chose wise counsellors
- reward your subordinates and punish disobediency
- appoint experienced and honest officials
- be an expansionist
- create public spirit

The title would have been misleading if I would have included the remaining principles as
my topic is "Machiavelli on the Art of Power" and not "Machiavelli on the Art of War".

I hope my viewpoint is conveyed to you now.

Sudheer Birodkar said... [Reply]

great write !!