THESIS: THE CONCEPT OF POWER AND AUTHORITY IN NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI: AN ANALYSIS
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TABLE OF CONTENT
CHAPTER ONE: General Introduction
Background of Studyh
Statement of Problem
Purpose of Study
Significance of Study
Scope of Study
Methodology of the Study
CHAPTER TWO: General Conception of “Power” and “Authority”
Definitions and Nature of ‘Power’ and ‘Authority’
Types of ‘Power’ and ‘Authority’
Influence(s) of ‘Power’ and ‘Authority’
CHAPTER THREE: Machiavelli on ‘Power’ and ‘Authority’
Life, Work and Influence(s)
Analysis of ‘The Prince’
The Nature of man
Power vis-à-vis Authority
CHAPTER FOUR: Evaluation and Conclusion
THESIS: THE CONCEPT OF ‘POWER’ AND ‘AUTHORITY’ IN NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI: AN ANALYSIS
Aristotle’s evaluation of different constitutions, he considered some
as better than others. One criterion was whether rule is conducted in
the interest of rulers, or for the common good. Applying this criterion,
we can ask if we would prepare to be governed by people who attempt to
enlist our willing co-operation by persuasion, showing us how rule is in
our interest also (the common good), or by people who rely exclusively
on coercion, threatening – or actually implementing force.
often co-operates without having to rehearse the whole set of reasons
for his actions. He relies on short-cuts, pointing to the law, tradition
directives of an official, or precedents, in a bid to explaining
himself. Such reliance is obviously the recognition of authority. He
does not necessarily have to be treated as an unreasonable or irrational
brute before he co-operates – although sometimes, when he tends to
exhibit his dangerious animalistic tendencies, one finds it somewhat
unfair to cast blames on the dude behind the wheels of power.
socio-political circles, power may sometimes be identified with
authority and vice-versa, but however, neither of these are
substantially one and the same, even though they may manifest common
traits at specific points in time. So, conducting a marriage ceremony
between them may just result in rational disputation but that
notwithstanding, we should – or ought, in a unique mean resolution, find
solace in what Plato regarded as “the highest form of knowledge” in his
dialectic, a view which the 19th century Hegel adopted, further
assertion that reality is dialectical in nature: that opposing rational
views, a thesis (e.g. power) and an anti-thesis (e.g. authority),
resolve into a synthesis which then becomes the thesis (THE CONCEPT OF
‘POWER’ AND ‘AUTHORITY’ IN NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI: AN ANALYSIS) of a
further dialectical process and so on.
entire political philosophy is centred around power game and authority.
He understood the imperative of power devoid of morality, as well as the
moralizing aspect of authority, legitimately-anchored. Between these
two, Aristotle would naturally expect him to uphold virtue which
according to Aristotle’s book “Niccomachean Ethics” lies in the middle
but being who he is known to be, based on what he has fed us with
through his works, we cant help but wonder whether Machiavelli ever
possessed the patience for the Aristotelian virtue.
above problem comfortably – poised for too long would no doubt suggest
that devout philosophers like myself are either asleep, or aimlessly
awake. So, with this basic mindset, I intend to subject the concepts
‘Power’ and ‘Authority’ to rational scrutiny, much in the illumination
of the very popular “Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli” (1469-1527).
1.1BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
being dependent on each other or any other in perspective, power and
authority are respectively capable of provoking a thesis of some sort.
This must be the reason some folks have randomly found discomforting.
The very idea of conducting a marriage ceremony between them – power and
authority, that is.
Anyway, power can be defined as “ability to
do something”1, while authority can be defined as “the power or right
to command”.2 It is important to be clear about the distinction between
these two, since they are often confused in language, as well as in
thought. We speak of a statute giving a minister “power” to do this or
that, when we mean giving him authority. Similarly, we speak of going
beyond one’s legal powers’ or acting “ultra vires”, where again the word
‘authority’ would express our meaning more clearly.
looseness of usage appears right at the beginning of the theoretical
discussion o sovereignty, in the work of Jean Bodin in the 16th century.
Bodin writes: ‘Sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power
(puissance) of a state… that is to say, the supreme powers to command.
It is here necessary to formulate the definitionof sovereignty, because
there is no just or political philosopher who has defined it, although
it is the principal feature and the most necessary to be understood in
the treatment of the state’.
He goes on to speak further of
‘puissance souveraine’ and ‘pussance absolue’, and so gives the
impression that sovereignty is a mater of power in the ordinary sense of
the word. Now, anybody has the power or ability to issue a command, but
not everyone is authorized or entitled to do so in particular
circumstances, and not everyone is either able or entitled to have his
commands carried out.
Does Bodin mean by ‘absolute power’ the
ability to issue effective commands, i.e. the ability to have one’s
command carried out? This would be power, properly speaking. Or does he
mean the entitlement or right to issue commands and to have them obeyed?
This could be authority. A reading of his whole account of sovereignty
makes it clear that ‘he means the second, but his use of the expression
‘absolute power’ suggests the first.3
Machiavelli saw stable
political authority and order as necessary for social cohesion and moral
regeneration. It was for this reason that he stressed the need for a
unified polity and a republican and free government committed to the
liberty of its people. His new way of looking at political behaviour was
significantly influenced by Leonardo, a personal friend with whose
writings he was familiar. Incidentally, Leonardo was an architect of
Borgia, the hero of the prince.
Machiavelli understood the
realities of politics, “its hist for power, its admiration of success,
its carefreeness of means, its rejection of medieval bonds, its frank
pragmatism, its conviction that national unity makes for national
strength. Neither his cynicism nor his praise of craftiness is
sufficient to conceal the idealist in him”. He cherished Republican
Liberty, but was aware of the dangers tyranny posed, amidst chaos to
While in the Prince, Machievelli highlighted
the importance of the security and unity of the state as the primary
concerns of a ruler, in the discourses, the theme was liberty and
republicanism.4 The Prince maintains a pride of place throughout this
1.2STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
A problem can
be defined as “a proposition stating something to be done”.5 The thing
to be done here is an analysis of power and authority respectively, both
without and within the confines of Machiavelli. But again, why the
resolve to fuse power with authority? I respect this philosophical
question, and dare say it I only a prestigious matter in hand. Yes,
since to analyze is “to separate (something) into its constituent parts
to investigate its structure and functions, etc”.6 fusion (which after
all establishes unity), is therefore a condition-sine-qua-non, if the
separation aforementioned must retain its relevance in analysis.
what is/are the structure and functions of power and authority
respectively? Is any superior to, or more relevant than the other? If
yes, then which? In short, to what extent can/should one be dependent on
or independent of the other? Are power and authority one and the same?
If not, how and to what extent do they differ? Who or what can exercise
power and/or authority, and what are their limits? Why power? Why
authority? … Truth is, the questions in this regard are quire numerous.
However, during the progression of this thesis, conscious attempts at
re-entering as many of them as possible and most necessary, will be duly
1.3PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
I stated earlier
that power and authority re often confused at different times and in
different respects. This is strikingly the same manner in which
Machiavelli’s conception of them is also often confused. This
observation constitutes a major reason why in this thesis, I intend to
establish the most attainable clarity concerning the nature and/or
extent of power and authority as individual entities in the first
instance, secondly, as fused, thirdly as determined by Niccolo
Machiavelli, and finally, hopefully as less-complicated concepts
introduced a fresh, for the benefit of all interested.
1.4SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
we witness, read, or hear about events as they occur in governance and
quite expectedly, only those exposed to at least basic political
understanding, especially from a philosophical standpoint, can
successfully grasp the reality(ies) of such occurrences, without
necessarily falling prey to the luring hands of disguise.
and authority may not be all there is to the political jurisdiction
within which we now play. However, one may not succeed in an attempt to
deny the fact that at the very mention of government, these dudes
reflexively occupy majority space.
Thus, I intend to reiterate
and hopefully reveal some extra about them (that is, power and
authority) than is already self-evident, an achievement which I believe
will constitute a model process through which interaction with even the
most guised political transactions, can be attained.
1.5SCOPE OF THE STUDY
my very-much-talked-about analysis of power and authority, as much as I
am aware that Machiavelli is the key personality here, I may however
have to necessarily veer off course randomly, especially when at the
tope of its voice, the need to buttress a point silently demands such
Specifically though, Machiavelli’s popularly known
treatise “The Prince”, will be analyzed under chapter three (3) of this
thesis. What Machiavelli produces in The Prince is a set of
prescriptions for the successful management of a state through the
procurement of power? Therein, he also used the term authority to
randomly express meaning and when we get to that realm, we ought seek to
ascertain whether or not to him, power and authority are one and the
1.6METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY
We already know how
that analysis involves separating something into its constituent parts
in order to investigate its structure and function(s). With this tool
therefore, I intend to mantle the pending chapters of this thesis from a
historical-analytical standpoint, engaging in thorough research.
contributions from available sources; including factual, written, oral,
etc, will be progressively introduced, while appraisal, refutation,
critique, etc. will come quickly to play, as and when due.
THESIS: THE CONCEPT OF POWER AND AUTHORITY IN NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI: AN ANALYSIS
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