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The Portable Machiavelli (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 31 May 1979

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (31 May 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140150927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140150926
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 649,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Niccolò Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469 of an old citizen family. In 1498 he was appointed secretary and a second chancellor to the Florentine Republic. During his time of office he accompanied Julius II on his first campaign of conquest. In 1507, as chancellor of the newly appointed Nove di Milizia, he organised an infantry force which fought at the capture of Pisa in 1509. Three years later it was defeated by the Holy League at Prato, the Medici returned to Florence, and Machiavelli was excluded from public life. He retired to his farm near San Casciano, where he gave his time to study and writing. After a brief return to public life, he died in 1527.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 8 July 2004
Format: Paperback
In the course of my political science training, I studied at great length the modern idea of realpolitik. In that study I came to realise that it was somewhat incomplete, without the companionship of 'The Prince', by Niccolo Machiavelli, a Florentine governmental official in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. 'The Prince' is an oft quoted, oft mis-quoted work, used as the philosophical underpinning for much of what is considered both pragmatic and wrong in politics today. To describe someone as being Machiavellian is to attribute to the person ruthless ambition, craftiness and merciless political tactics. Being believed to be Machiavellian is generally politically incorrect. Being Machiavellian, alas, can often be politically expedient.
Machiavelli based his work in 'The Prince' upon his basic understanding of human nature. He held that people are motivated by fear and envy, by novelty, by desire for wealth, power and security, and by a hatred of restriction. In the Italy in which he was writing, democracy was an un-implemented Greek philosophical idea, not a political structure with a history of success; thus, one person's power usually involved the limitation of another person's power in an autocratic way.
Machiavelli did not see this as a permanent or natural state of being -- in fact, he felt that, during his age, human nature had been corrupted and reduced from a loftier nobility achieved during the golden ages of Greece and Rome. He decided that it was the corrupting influence of Christianity that had reduced human nature, by its exaltation of meekness, humility, and otherworldliness.
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By Mac McAleer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I liked this book. I liked its price and I liked its utility as a reference work. I even liked Machiavelli.

Leading on from an interest in the Borgias, The Prince seemed a good background source to the period, but a little research showed that although an important book it is not wholly representative of Machiavelli's views, as it was written for a specific and limited audience. The idea of a general reader was attractive, particularly as the Discourses on Livy seemed to be an important corollary to The Prince.

CONTENTS: This is a reader and not a complete works. The Prince is complete. the Discourses are heavily abridged and there is a selection of a few letters, his play The Mandrake Root and selections from The Art of War, The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca, A Fable: Belfagar, The Devil Who Took A Wife and The History of Florence. Each of these selections is preceded by a short Editors' Note. Thus there is more than The Prince, which is why the book is so useful. The fame, or infamy, of The Prince has turned the name Machiavelli into a metonym for amoral, unscrupulous realpolitik. This reader redresses the balance.

THE BOOK: There is no index, notes, maps nor illustrations but it does have a scholarly introduction. It is part of the Portable series designed for ". . .compactness and readability. . . not met by other compilations." And so it does with over 570 pages of text in a slightly bold but very readable Times Roman fount with 38 lines per page. There is a 32 page introduction plus a 10 page closely typed bibliography. Overall it looks a solidly printed book, almost impressed, which could just as easily have been printed by a Caxton in 1479 rather than in 1979.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Humour and Virtue from Machiavelli? 8 July 2004
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the course of my political science training, I studied at great length the modern idea of realpolitik. In that study I came to realise that it was somewhat incomplete, without the companionship of 'The Prince', by Niccolo Machiavelli, a Florentine governmental official in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. 'The Prince' is an oft quoted, oft mis-quoted work, used as the philosophical underpinning for much of what is considered both pragmatic and wrong in politics today. To describe someone as being Machiavellian is to attribute to the person ruthless ambition, craftiness and merciless political tactics. Being believed to be Machiavellian is generally politically incorrect. Being Machiavellian, alas, can often be politically expedient.
Machiavelli based his work in 'The Prince' upon his basic understanding of human nature. He held that people are motivated by fear and envy, by novelty, by desire for wealth, power and security, and by a hatred of restriction. In the Italy in which he was writing, democracy was an un-implemented Greek philosophical idea, not a political structure with a history of success; thus, one person's power usually involved the limitation of another person's power in an autocratic way.
Machiavelli did not see this as a permanent or natural state of being -- in fact, he felt that, during his age, human nature had been corrupted and reduced from a loftier nobility achieved during the golden ages of Greece and Rome. He decided that it was the corrupting influence of Christianity that had reduced human nature, by its exaltation of meekness, humility, and otherworldliness.
Machiavelli has a great admiration for the possible and potential, but finds himself inexorably drawn to the practical, dealing with situations as they are, thus becoming an early champion of realpolitik carried forward into this century by the likes of Kissinger, Thatcher, Nixon, and countless others. One of the innovations of Machiavelli's thought was the recognition that the prince, the leader of the city/state/empire/etc., was nonetheless a human being, and subject to all the human limitations and desires with which all contend.
Because the average prince (like the average person) is likely to be focussed upon his own interests, a prince's private interests are generally in opposition to those of his subjects. Fortunate is the kingdom ruled by a virtuous prince, virtue here not defined by Christian or religious tenets, but rather the civic virtue of being able to pursue his own interests without conflicting those of his subjects.
Virtue is that which increases power; vice is that which decreases power. These follow Machiavelli's assumptions about human nature. Machiavelli rejected the Platonic idea of a division between what a prince does and what a prince ought to do. The two principle instruments of the prince are force and propaganda, and the prince, in order to increase power (virtue) ought to employ force completely and ruthlessly, and propaganda wisely, backed up by force. Of course, for Machiavelli, the chief propaganda vehicle is that of religion.
Machiavelli has been credited with giving ruthless strategies (the example of a new political ruler killing the deposed ruler and the ruler's family to prevent usurpation and plotting is well known) -- it is hard to enact many in current politics in a literal way, but many of his strategies can still be seen in electioneering at every level, in national and international relations, and even in corporate and family internal 'politics'. In fact, I have found fewer more Machiavellian types than in church politics!
Of course, these people would be considered 'virtuous' in Machiavellian terms -- doing what is necessary to increase power and authority.
Perhaps if Machiavelli had lived a bit later, and been informed by the general rise of science as a rational underpinning to the world, he might have been able to accept less of a degree of randomness in the universe. Perhaps he would have modified his views. Perhaps not -- after all, the realpolitikers of this age are aware of the scientific framework of the universe, and still pursue their courses.
Bondanella and Musa, professors at my university, use 'The Prince' at the centrepiece of this collection, which also includes excerpts from 'The Art of War', 'The History of Florence', and 'The Discourses'. They also include in their entirety 'Belfagor', 'The Mandrake Root', and 'The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca'. There's also a remarkable and humourous collection of personal correspondence of Machiavelli, showing he had quite a sense of humour. These are only seven out of 250 of his letters known to exist - a collection of all these letters would also be worthwhile reading.
This is a great collection, introduced by an essay by Bondanella and Musa, and a very good bibliography, divided into subjects.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Machi at his best 13 April 2003
By Dan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Aside from being a concise collection of Machiavelli's important political works, this volume serves another great purpose - it shows you a side of Machiavelli never seen before by publishing the HILARIOUS letters to his brother. The letter to his brother about his encounter with a prostitute is absolutely hysterical. This volume provides selections which show you both sides of Machiavelli - the serious political scientist and the satirical, comical human being.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Lessons from Machiavelli 24 Feb. 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Lessons from Machiavelli

1)He who hesitates as a ruler is lost

2) Mercenary armies are never to be trusted. To rule securely one must have a defense force made of one's own people.

3) Christian virtue is the opposite of political wisdom.

4) A government of one type, whether it be monarchy, oligarchy, or democracy will become corrupt. 'Mixed government is good government.'

5) A ruler must be ruthless with his enemies.

6) Inflexibility for a ruler will inevitably lead to failure.

7) There are times it is wise to negotiate. Machiavelli felt his beloved Florence was conquered by the Spaniards only because the Florentines refused at a time propitious to them , negotiations.

8) The ancient Greeks and Romans ruled at times more wisely than the city- state Italians of his own times.

9) 'Courage does help make ' Fortune' but Fortune is nonetheless fickle and unreliable even to the brave.

10) It is better for a ruler to be feared than to be loved.

11) Political murder is justified when it leads to the preservation of the polity.

12)Even the greatest of men are subject to Fortune.

13) The study of ancient socieites and history gives relevant lessons for present political behavior.

14)If one does not have an Army one cannot preserve one's power.

15)The political task of Religion is inspiration of public loyalty.

16) The commonwealth, the political entity is more important than the individual.

17)
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Machiavelli the comedian??? You bet! 8 Mar. 2002
By M. Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Those familiar with his most famous work 'The Prince' may find this hard to believe. In this collection we see a totally different side of the man through; a humorous letter to his brother about an encounter with a less than attractive prostitute, a hilarious short story with a dubious message about marriage and a completely comic play. The nearly 500 years since their appearance does nothing to diminish their comedic value. These three pieces alone make the work worth the money. If that's not enough for you, there are also selections from his famous 'Art of War' and 'The Discourses.' True Machiavelli fans like myself will not want to miss this gem!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Wonderful Book 19 Sept. 2006
By Robert Templeton Fox - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Here it is, Machiavelli's work in its sinister glory for all to behold. The truth of man's corruption and dishonesty is exposed for all the world to see.

The wise Florentine is not to be blamed and scandalised for lifting the veil on the

cesspool of politics, religion and royalty. No, he is to be congratulated for summarising the dastardly deeds committed by Popes, Princes, Kings and Emperors. Without Machiavelli to set us right, some of us may believe politics is a noble profession.

Use "The Portable Machiavelli" to see through the hazy rhetoric used by spin doctors, or as a tool to aid effective management strategies, or simply for entertainment purposes.

If you are unfamiliar with Machiavelli's work then prepare yourself for a shock. It's not a guidebook for tyrants, as many commentators may suggest, it's more of a literary equivalent of smelling salts. Once we have read Machiavelli's work we awaken with a clearer idea of the reality around us.
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