What Were Machiavelli’s Beliefs?

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As a political philosopher of the Renaissance, Niccolo Machiavelli believed strongly in realpolitik, or doing what was best for the state and the good of its population rather than any ruling family or individual. His work “The Prince” serves as a guide for how politics should be conducted in Machiavelli’s opinion.

One of Machiavelli’s most well-known quotes is on the benefit of love versus fear. Many people only focus on the first part, which states that a ruler must often choose between being feared or admired by his subjects and concludes that it’s safer to be feared when given the choice between the two. The follow-up to the quote cautions would-be rulers to avoid becoming hated in the process of inspiring fear because hatred can make people overcome fear.

Machiavelli also believed that codes of law should be based on the observation of actual human psychology and morals rather than any preconceived thought of how people should act. He was pessimistic about human nature, referring to people as greedy, selfish beings who seize any opportunity afforded them, and he also believed that a strong ruling body was necessary to maintain social order. Machiavelli’s work remains influential well after his time.