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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 1 September 2010
This new edition of The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, part of the Capstone Original Classic series, is beautifully presented as befits a work of this stature and importance. The pleasing cover design and layout make it an excellent gift. However, Tom Butler-Bowdon's lucid and engaging introduction, to a work he rightly describes as "timeless", is also worth possessing. He provides an excellent and very readable introduction to Machiavelli and his historical context and a laudable survey of his principal ideas. This fine essay is accompanied by a concise bullet-point summary of The Prince's main points, a timeline of the author's life, and details of his other works. Tom helps to set the record straight: Machiavelli was a political pragmatist not a monster. He condemns wanton vice and cruelty and says instead: "It is essential, therefore, for a Prince who desires to maintain his position, to have learned how to be other than good, and to use or not use his goodness as necessity requires." Sometimes force is necessary for the benefit of the state, according to this view, and difficult decisions lie ahead of any new ruler. Apart from being a classical work of political philosophy, The Prince arguably has something to offer the modern reader as a guide to life, in much the same way as Sun Tzu's The Art of War. It paints a picture of the ideal ruler as someone who faces adversity with a tough-minded realism but does so, ultimately, with noble aims. I highly recommend this edition of the "original classic" not only to those with an interest in politics and ethics, therefore, but to those seeking an alternative to the more saccharine forms of contemporary self-help.

Donald Robertson, author of,
The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy
The Discovery of Hypnosis: The Complete Writings of James Braid the Father of Hypnotherapy
The Practice of Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapy
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on 13 November 2010
This is not a review of The Prince as this has already been done very adequately by previous reviewers, and it is indeed a brilliant political writing. However the Dover Thrift edition of it isn't the best, its printed on very cheap paper and bound in a cheap cover, this may not be important for some people. If you just need to standard text for quick reference then this is good enough but if you want a bit more of a substantial book with a very good introduction then I would spend a couple more quid and buy the Penguin edition (which I have just done).
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This often misquoted and misunderstood guide (generally by those who have never read or studied it) for those who aspire to political or organizational power is still relevant almost 500 years after its original 1532 publication. Machiavelli's name is now undeservedly a synonym for scheming, cynicism and ruthlessness: in fact `The Prince' is the work of a far-sighted and experienced realist which predicts in detail the outcome of any course of action undertaken by a ruler/leader/monarch/president/CEO (i.e. "Prince") who aspires to run any organization/state/conquered territory and clearly explains in plain language the way to succeed and maintain position.

In 26 succinct chapters each with a themed focus, the author outlines the consequences of a range of any would-be leader's actions with an impressive directness and brevity of language, making the book a concise but deep and information-packed `How to do it and avoid mistakes' guide to leadership. On the use of cruelty (despotism/tyranny in modern jargon) for example:

"Cruelty can be called `well-used' if executed at a single stroke out of necessity to secure one's power, and is then not continued but converted into the greatest possible benefit to one's subjects. Badly used cruelty...even if initially limited, increases with time...those who follow the first path can maintain their position ...the others cannot possibly survive" (Ch8)

From musing on generosity (Machiavelli details why it is much better for a political leader in the long-run to be thought mean-minded than generous), to the occasional necessity for war (war should not be delayed or postponed nor aggressors appeased, but ought to be carried out quickly to devastating effect, as to delay will only make the situation worse) and "He who has good arms will always have good friends" (Ch19) virtually every page is replete with often surprisingly counter-intuitive wisdom. The author always backs up his points with contemporary and historical examples perhaps less obvious to the modern-day reader not steeped in classical or mediaeval European history, but the more you re-read and think about what he writes, the more profound and realistic you realise are his insights.

Laying modern-day political correctness to one side, consider Machiavelli's refreshingly frank and deeply poetic insight into how "fortune" (i.e. "luck", "fate", being "in accord with the `Zeitgeist" or whatever you want to call it) should be managed:

"...when fortune changes and men rigidly continue in their ways, they will flourish as long as fortune and their ways are in accord, but they will come to ruin the moment these are in discord...it is better to be impetuous than cautions, because Fortune is a woman, and if you wish to dominate her you must beat and batter her. It is clear that she will let herself be won by men who are impetuous rather than by those who step cautiously. Therefore like a woman, she is more partial to young men, because they are less cautious, wilder and command her with greater audacity" (Ch25)

The text of `The Prince' only extends to around only 90 pages (depending on the translation and page layout) but packs a lot in: what is lacking in quantity is amply compensated by quality and profundity. It's often said that if you don't know `The Prince' and its lessons for power then you're not really politically educated: certainly the principles and insights offered by Machiavelli's text 500 years ago can still be seen to operate on the contemporary political landscape.
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on 27 December 2013
I bought this book after seeing a documentary on Machiavelli on BBC.. The book was written 500 years ago. I should have bought this 49 years ago, now I am retired. But still find it very interesting and now I am thinking where did I go wrong. I never knew that this book was in existence for 500. No body told me about this book. I am now happy that my son and daughter have bought this book and they find it useful in their career.
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on 24 March 2009
Machiavelli raises the worrisome spectre that power is a stranger to morality. The atrocious standards of ruthlessness that a ruler often has to observe to acquire and maintain power buttress the claim that absolute power corrupts absolutely; because great men are almost always, bad men. It is the authentic bible of the cult of power.
The Prince is a jarring testament that the gilded corridors of power as portrayed by the kleiglights only mask the true pathway, a road filled with the blood and corpses of the squeamish and fainthearted. These same words Alexander the Great had put accross with robust military poetry: fortuna favore fortis!
Indeed, power is not everything. It is the only thing.
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on 13 August 2013
This is a great book and not as controversial or ground-breaking as people may expect it to be. Very clearly written and an accurate analysis of the human psyche and how to lead the masses.
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on 24 July 2015
A good version of a classic book. The introductory text and explanation is well written and easy to follow, The actual book can be a little heavy going at times but that's not surprising. Despite being written over 500 years ago this book is amazingly accurate in it's analysis of power from both a conceptual and practical standpoint. Many of the ideas and lessons remain utterly relevant today. This edition is well designed and is made from good quality materials.
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on 17 January 2011
Great cheap edition of this book. Not the best quality paper, so probably not the best idea for a present. However, if you just want to read the book yourself its more than adequate. Giving it 5 stars due to its value for money.
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Those who have read one or more of the volumes that comprise Tom Butler-Bowdon's "50 Classics" series already know that he possesses superior reasoning and writing skills as well as a relentless curiosity when conducting research on history's greatest thinkers and their major works. For these and other reasons, I cannot think of another person better qualified to provide the introductions to the volumes that comprise a new series, "Capstone Classics."

Unlike so many others, he provides more, much more than a flimsy "briefing" to the given work. As Butler-Bowdon points out, "recent research has focused on [Machiavelli's] ethics and the fact that he was a genuine moral philosopher and well-rounded Renaissance man whose over riding wish was to be useful." This obviously challenges the mistaken but durable perception of Machiavelli as being "evil" by those who have never read The Prince and know even less about the age in which it was written.

Indeed, as Yale's Erica Benner suggests in Machiavelli's Ethics (published by Princeton University Press, 2009), The Prince is "best seen not as a guide on how to be ruthless or self-serving, but rather as a lens to see objectively the prevailing views of the day, and to open the eyes of the reader to the motives of others."

For this volume, Butler-Bowdon poses and then addresses key issues such as these in order to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Niccolò Machiavelli's insights:

o The defining characteristics of the social and political forces of the period during which he lived and worked
o The extent to which The Prince accurately reflects that period
o The dominant influences (for better or worse) on Machiavelli's career
o Their impact on his efforts to advance that career amidst deadly perils and equally perilous opportunities
o The unique contributions and heritage of The Prince within the development of western literature
o Machiavelli's articles of religious faith and perspectives political realities (e.g. his "success laws")
o His definition of "power" and how best to gain and then apply it
o Girolamo Savonarola's significance
o The role of image and charisma in effective leadership
o Machiavelli's "final, powerful message" to our own times

There were so many passages in The Prince that caught my eye while re-reading it prior to writing this brief review. One was cited in its title (i.e. a leader needs to be both "a fox to discern snares, and a lion to drive off wolves") and Butler-Bowdon cites another when concluding the Introduction to this volume: Reflecting Machiavelli's basic philosophy regarding the division of causal power between and chance and merit, he states that, "What remains to be done must be done by you," as ultimately "God will not do everything Himself." To which Butler-Bowdon responds, "The Prince ultimately is a book of [begin italics] action [end italics], and demands of you the reader, to act without fear to achieve noble things, acquiring distinction and perhaps a certain glory in your own lifetime."

As indicated earlier, Tom Butler-Bowdon's purpose in this introduction is to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Machiavelli's insights. He does so brilliantly and also in each of the other volumes in the "Capstone Classics" series that have been published thus far.
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on 20 November 2015
II found the writing style very difficult to follow at first. The long sentences with many inserted additional points hard to follow and keep the main thread going. However I did get used to it about a third of the way through. The points described about the methods of power management and the position of a 'Prince' seemed very relevant to the power struggles we see being played out today. Perhaps this say a lot about human behaviour not really changed much from then to now.
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