The Prince

Machiavelli's Limitations

Machiavelli's The Prince is an ambitious attempt to outline the steps necessary to ensuring success in leadership. The work dissects the elements of power; it identifies the sources from which it springs and the tactics required for its maintenance. His position rests on the claim that power is "acquired either through the arms of others or with one's own, either by fortune or virtue" (Ch. 1, pg. 6), and he asserts that success in politics cannot exist outside of this basic framework. Centuries later, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. would rise from the masses as a leader, armed only with the candor of his objectives and their means. King is generally accepted by those who are familiar with his career in politics as a successful leader - one who's ends were steadily achieved through the perserverence of his spirit and the support of his people. Yet Machiavelli states plainly that "all the armed prophets conquered, and the unarmed ones were ruined" (Ch.6, pg. 24). Machiavelli's failure to account for the success of a leader as antithetical to his beliefs as King betrays a fundamental flaw in the former's reasoning. Machiavelli's understanding of true leadership and success is...

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