This article the first in the series is based on the relevance and the implications of the most celebrated and controversial book in human history “Il Principe (The Prince)”. It was written by Niccolò Machiavelli in 1513 and published 5 years after his death, in 1532. The series derives influence from the book to understand how a modern day entrepreneur learns from it and runs a business. The book heavily polarizes readers. Understanding and interpreting it is left to the reader.
Something about the writer (Not me!!!! Mine you can find on LinkedIn)
“Old Nick” as he is often referred to for the devilish wisdom he places in the book is considered as the father of modern political science. He was a senior official in the Florentine republic and was regarded by even his enemies as a man of highest integrity.
In 1512 he lost his office on account of Florentines getting defeated by Medici. The Medici accused him of conspiracy and tortured for 03 weeks before releasing him. He retired to his private estate and began studying and writing the political treatise. One often wonders if the turn of the events not in favor was god’s conspiracy to retire him early and glorify “power”.
The book got him the reputation so much that his name “Machiavelli” itself became an adjective. From Wikipedia “Machiavellianism is “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct“. Readers should not judge Machiavelli for his writings as truth is bitter and often ignored by people to live in their illusions happily.
It is adored by people who come to terms with the underlying message and the intent of the book. Catholic Church banned the book by placing it in Index Librorum Prohibitorum. The book is notorious for a perceived justification of means for tyrants to achieve ends and maintain the regime. However, It also provides another means of seeing the world through a different perspective.
Why the controversy?
The whole controversy begins from the different approach taken by Machiavelli from what humanity perceives itself. Machiavelli recognizes the reality of the society which is far from being ideal. He says “……. in general of men that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely”.
To ensure that men follow you and obey your commands, you need to succeed. To succeed you need to have a different approach than others and a clear sense of goal you need to achieve. With this reality the whole book deals to the conduct of the prince in order to maintain his kingdom.
The judgmental society minutely analyses the actions of every individual. But what really matters is the end result. Dropping of two nuclear bombs got justified as the cause for a swift end to the war. There are many such examples available in history. All the justification depends on achieving end result.
Machiavelli says “in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.” If the end result makes people happy, the judgment itself will be positive. Hence a prince should focus on getting the end result and not the judgment.
The book has been through a lot actually and any more criticism of it will be a shame. Read the book if you haven’t and especially if you are an entrepreneur.
Relevance of Prince in modern time?
How does a book written in 1513 for prince and kingdoms holds relevance today is the big question. While the book talks about a prince its focus is gaining and maintaining of power. It is this power that holds things together and not money like many think.
Frank Underwood says in House of cards “Money is the Mc-mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.” Jews had all the money with them while Hitler had power and look what he did. All the currency and the assets you own will fail to help where power is needed.
If you are a fan of House of cards or Games of Thrones it wouldn’t be difficult to agree. Though set in different eras, both the TV series plays around similar concepts (Seeking and maintaining power).
To get a more relevance of the book you need to look closely in the world and you’ll see how countries dominate each other and how new relationships change the balance of the region. The struggle is always for being the most powerful country in the world. Earlier United States fought cold war with Soviet Union and now preparing for China. All three countries have enough money to stay happily but they know the importance of power.
Big businesses muscle the smaller ones to either sell their business or close it. Political rivals joining hands and one individual emerging above others in a race are many reasons you get to see on a regular basis. While the truth behind it may not be known to you, you surely will appreciate the craftsmanship that must be executed by some people to get it done. That is the “Prince” for you.
Why prince for entrepreneur?
Since the book is about power ambitious people like entrepreneur like accumulation of power (directly or indirectly). They are the right breed to absorb power. Running a business is no less than running a kingdom or even a country.
It takes more than your hard work and intelligence to be the prince.
Terms the book uses
The terms used in the book are 500 years old and are more than outdated (Read abusive) today. Let’s understand few of them:
Prince: In the entrepreneurial world, a prince is basically the founder of the start up. In cases where there is more than one founder, then all are the princes. For the sake of argument only, the one who occupies the top position like CEO or the MD can be fairly assumed to be the prince. The rest without any discrimination can be assumed to be the brother of prince. Their fate is tied to the welfare of the kingdom.
Kingdom: It is basically the business organization they have built. Such an organization can be inherited as family business or build from scratch with their ability or fortune as the book specifies. It is the maintenance of the business that they all strive for.
The book refers kingdoms as either republic or principalities.
Principalities: They are basically the business that one operates.
Republic: They are basically the governmental form of structure that we live in. Interpretations for them will be tried not to include as done in the book itself.
Servants: The term sounds derogatory but then, everyone in the world is a servant. Government officials are referred to and rightly so as civil servants. For the sake of understanding of the book only, the treatment given in the name of servants can be fairly assumed to be the same as that of employees with all the respect.
Citizens: They are the customers and consumers of your product or service and their happiness is the paramount thing to any entrepreneur. It is their happiness that makes a founder a prince. In corporate, the same can also be referred to as the shareholders.
In this series we will be taking points from the book and exploring it in modern times and what an entrepreneur can learn from it. Share your take on the articles by commenting below.