The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli and Utopia by Thomas More are both very influential and well-known books, both of them have one big thing in common: there is a big misinterpretation of the information portrayed in both books. The prince had not been published during the Machiavelli’s lifetime and when it was published in 1532 it got blacklisted by the pope, following that, the term ‘Mach Evil’ came into play and Machevillian became a synonym to tyrannical. A similar but less destructive misconception happened to Utopia.
Thomas Moore was an example of a Nothern Renassaince man, who had a humanistic view of life. However, he wrote Utopia to show a cruel example of a very successful state. In modern times this book is widely viewed to be an actual example of the perfect society with always content citizens. Opposite to the misconceptions, The Prince just shows Machievelles breakdown of the successful leadership qualities with examples and Utopia is just a dialog between two characters describing the state of Utopia and its difference to the European countries.
Machiavelli and Nonsenso agree what human nature is evil, however, they have different approaches to ruling the state based on that. Machiavelli is certain about the evil of human nature, which is the reason why they always need a strong leader to govern them. In Utopia, citizens have very strict rules and the punishment is slavery and death, so human nature is suppressed and all of the capitalistic things are nonexistent. Machiavelli’s viewpoint through the book really focuses on the success of the state, which is represented by the success of the leader, on the other hand, Raphael shares the story of the country which has no money, no land, and everything is done for the success of the people.
Nonetheless, both of the viewpoints are very significant and helped shape modern society. The books are very different in their approach to the reader, the books were also written for different readers. Machiavelli’s main focus of this book was to show his dedication to Lorenzo de’Medici, the ruler of Florence at the time. Raphael Nonsenso is taking to Thomas Moore, the character, describing the world of Utopia. Knowing the author’s background and the timely invention of the printing press which popularized the books, there were a lot of middle class and maybe even lower class who read this book. This behavior also echoes in the treatment of the regular folk in the books. Niccolo Machiavelli describes the common people as a kettle with one mindset throughout and just animal instincts, that’s why they need a leader.
On the other hand, Utopia, especially Book 2 really focuses on the citizens of the country and how they all have their own responsibilities and don’t have any freedoms. Several times in The Prince the author mentions how for a ruler it is better to be feared rather than loved, so Machiavelli argues that people are too irresponsible, and need a leader to direct them. Chapter 17 “Cruelty and compassion’’ focuses on the breakdown why it is better to be cruel and feared rather than loved, specifically the author talks how its dependant on the human soul: “they are ungrateful and unreliable; they lie, they fake, they’re greedy for cash and they melt away in the face of danger… Men are less worried about letting down someone who has made himself loved than someone who makes himself feared’’(The Prince, p.66).
Machiavelli talks about the evil nature of people and how they only care about the ones they are afraid of. The people are so horrible it is not worth giving them love and care since they will turn their backs on the ruler whenever something bad happens at all scenarios, also he references how the citizens only want money for themselves so they wouldn’t willingly pay more taxes for the best of the country. At the same time since they are so selfish you can’t expect them to do anything for the state, so they need to be controlled by a strong leader. With this passage, Machiavelli justifies the fear in the population for the success of the state, since it is easier to control people when they have respect for a governor.
Raphael believes Utopia is a perfect society because it doesn’t have the capitalism ideas of private property or money, however, all of those ideas are man-made, so they represent what people really want. Utopia is a successful country because they suppress human nature by strict punishments. People still want to relax and enjoy humanly pleasures, but the country is always looking other you and if they see you not working then punishment. Raphael is telling us how they all snitch on each other for the success of everyone: “There’s never any excuse for idleness. There are also no wine-taverns, no ale-houses, no brothels, no opportunities for seduction, no secret meeting-places.
Everyone has his eye on you, so you are practically forced to get on with your job, and make some proper use of your spare time’’(Utopia, p.65). In this passage, the author tells us how the state doesn’t allow any places for leisure and also no time for rest, and since no one wants to get in trouble, they are all looking after each over and make sure they do their job. During his monologue about the state Raphael never acknowledges how cruel all of the punishments and restrictions are, he focuses on how all of the people are fed, they have a place to sleep and are all equal. Utopia is divided into districts and there are strict rules on traveling, and this is what happens when you travel without your identification: “you’re brought home in disgrace, and severely punished as a deserter. For a second offence the punishment is slavery’’(Utopia, p.64).
This passage tells us if you ever get caught walking outside of your designated area without a passport, you are a disgrace and might become a slave. Analyzing these quotes we notice that people are deprived of a lot of the fun things in the world, they can’t drink alcohol or relax the way they want, so are all of them actually happy just because they have food? Additionally, the citizens could never be actually relaxed or happy because they always have to be thinking of all the rules and how not to break any of them. Everyone fears the others, and don’t enjoy their lives since they have to suppress their human nature, but since everyone works hard the country is successful overall and has no poverty problems.
Machiavelli talks a lot about the leader controlling the whole country single-handedly since he can’t even fully trust his own advisors. His opinion on human nature relating to the politics is straightforward, he thinks since the human nature is very selfish, the leader should do all the important deeds for the state himself. The author argues the ruler could never take any advice fully from his advisors since only the prince cares more about the country than himself. In chapter 23 the author tells the ruler to be careful when picking his advisors since various people will give him different advice all in their own favors: “It’s not a case of finding better ministers; men will always be out to trick you… In conclusion: a ruler isn’t smart because he’s getting proper advice; on the contrary, it’s his good sense that makes the right advice possible’’(The Prince, p.94-95).
Here Machiavelli explains how you will never find a minister who will care more about the state rather than himself, just because its the human nature. Later he mentions how as a great leader you should be able to understand which advice is the best, instead of blindly trusting your close advisors. The human nature rules everyone: the lower and the higher classes, and the only exception to that is the ruler himself. He keeps his own pride in his country so he wants to make it prestigious and prosperous. While it appears that Machiavelli talks about the evil nature of people and how they cannot be trusted with anything, there is some evidence which suggests the opposite: “ No one new to power has ever disarmed his objects; on the contrary, finding them disarmed new rulers have always armed them”(The Prince, p.20).
In this quote, the author talks about a ruler which just gained the state and rather than taking away the ammunition, gives them more, which is disagreeing with the argument, since they will just rebel right away. The ruler is still acting based on the human nature of the citizens since everyone wants power, and if you do give them the arms they will think you are supportive of them and they will side with you, also they will become dependant on you, so it is easier to control them.
There is evidence in which Machiavelli talks about your own army is the best option: “ So sensible rulers have always avoided using auxiliaries and mercenaries, relying instead on their own man and even preferring to lose with their own troops than to win with others”(The Prince, p.54). Consequently, it is better to give the arms to your own people and make them dependant on you rather than paying foreigners to fight for you. The citizens are still exhibiting the human nature but the ruler needs to use that for the best of the country, so that is the reason why arming the people is needed.
Thomas Moore writes about a country in which no one has any private property. Even the ruler has no money to his own name and has a lot of responsibilities. The country is governed by presenters from each district which are normally the oldest and the most experienced workers. The state basically governs itself, since everyone does their job equally. Again they behave so well because of the strict rulers which hide the human nature. So anyone who exhibits signs of human nature is deemed not suited for Utopia. In this evidence, Raphael talks about the punishments: “The normal penalty for any major crime is slavery. They say it’s just as unpleasant for the criminals as capital punishment, and more useful to society than getting rid of them right away, since live workers are more valuable than dead ones’’(Utopia, p.85)
Here the author implies if anyone breaks the law they become a slave instead of death, since they can still be useful to the other people. In the following passage, the author talks about attempted crime: “Anyone who deliberately tries to commit a crime is legally assumed to have committed it”(Utopia, p.86) If you are caught planning a crime, you will get punished for it fully. This really highlights how they don’t care as much about the crime itself and more about the qualities of a person, so if you exhibit the bad behavior you don’t deserve to be considered a citizen anymore. Utopia doesn’t even consider them as people anymore, they are just slaves which are useful for the country.
The complex role of human nature in the politics discussed in this essay is real life problem since corruption is still very much present in our society. There also have been examples of societies which lived under the socialistic regime which was similar to the Utopia. Soviet Union under Salin had similar cruel rules Utopia did since everyone had to follow the rules and there was no freedom to do anything not approved by the government.
As a punishment people were sent to gulags (prison camps), where they would be useful for the country. Machiavelli believes in a strong leader who can govern the country single-handedly and Raphael believes the strict laws and no leisure will help eliminate the evil nature. In the end, Nonsenso’s and Machiavelli’s views on the relationship of human nature to politics are different, nonetheless, both of the books are useful and helpful for the society.