Renaissance Politics

This two-part assignment is based on your analysis of The Prince and Utopia. The first part asks you questions about Machiavelli’s The Prince, while the second part asks you to comment on More’s Utopia and to compare the two ideal worlds presented.

Part 1: The Prince by Machiavelli

To what degree do modern political leaders demonstrate Machiavellian traits? To what degree do you agree with Machiavelli’s ideas? What ideas would you debate with him? Support your ideas with specific examples from the following Machiavellian excerpts and political examples from more modern history. Is it better to be loved or to be feared: Upon this a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.

Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by nobility or greatness of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserved you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. Winners take it all: Let a prince, therefore, win victories and uphold his state, his methods will always be considered worthy and everyone will praise them, because the masses are always impressed by the superficial appearance of things and by the outcome of an enterprise.

The need for a strong leadership: Therefore, the wise prince shall seek to make his people, in every action and every possible situation, be in need of his government. Then they will always be faithful to him. Appearance is almost everything- but ruthlessness allows you to keep power. It is not at all necessary for the prince to have all of the good qualities which I have named, but it is necessary to seem to have them . . . Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, sincere, religious, and also be so. But a prince must always be ready to embrace the opposite qualities if the occasion demands it.

Part 2: Thomas More’s Utopia

To what degree do you agree with More’s assessment about how private property affects individuals and society? How would Machiavelli answer Thomas More, if he had the chance? Can you think of any society, past or present, which has managed to function without private property? Explain. Given the choice, would you choose to live in a political system as envisioned by Machiavelli or More? Explain your rationale. “To tell you what I really think, as long as you have private property, and as long as cash money is the measure of all things, it is not really possible for a nation to be governed justly or happily. For justice cannot exist where all the best things in life are held by the worst citizens; nor can anyone be happy where property is limited to a few, since those few are always uneasy and the many are utterly wretched. So I reflect on the wonderfully wise and sacred institutions of the Utopians who are so well governed with so few laws.

Among them virtue has its reward, yet everything is shared equally, and all men live in plenty…I doubt whether such equality can ever be achieved where property belongs to individual men.

However abundant goods may be, when every man tries to get as much as he can for his own exclusive use, a handful of men end up sharing the whole thing, and the rest are left in poverty… Thus I am wholly convinced that unless private property is entirely done away with, there can be no fair or just distribution of goods, nor can mankind be happily governed”

Use the Chicago Manual of Style to format your assignments. Properly citing your sources shows you respect the ideas of others, and helps protect against plagiarizing. The formatting style should be used to create bibliographies, end notes, and/or footnotes.

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