Comparing and Contrasting Machiavelli's Ideas

Question: Two Word Count: 1000 Karl Marx and Niccolo Machiavelli are interested in two completely different forms of government. Yet both philosophers share many of the same key terms. They both understand the power and importance of deceit, and how it is gained. They also are equally opinionated when it comes to the subject of property and money. This essay will seek to explain, compare, and contrast Machiavelli’s ideas on power with Karl Marx’s ideas on Money. Marx believes that money has a misused transformative power in Bourgeois society, one which he argues, that we are currently subjected to.

He claims that, “Money is the pimp between man’s need and the object, between his life and his means of life. But that which mediates my life for me, also mediates the existence of other people for me. ” (page 136 Economic And Philosophic Manuscripts) Here he is saying that in this peculiar political economy, money is the only universal means of actualizing the needs and means of life for man. Money is so eminent and necessary that it not only mediates if or when your needs are meant, but it influences the way you see others and the way others see you.

Marx goes on to say, “That which is for me through the medium of money-that for which I can pay…-that am I, the possessor of the money. ” (page 137 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts) Basically money has the unnatural effect of creating an authentic mirage of someone through its buying power. Marx goes on to list ways in which money can nullify natural deficiencies of a certain person, and thus contrary to human nature. Throughout the rest of the passage, [The Power of Money in Bourgeois Society], Marx cites similar examples that all lead to the conclusion that money “is the general confounding and compounding of all things. (page 140 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts) That is to say, the ability of money to act on “all natural and human qualities” in two incompatible ways, that is compounding and confounding, is a bad things. It causes friction and complacency at the same time, which is unnatural. Marx wishes to rid us of the use of money and its effects in a Bourgeois Society because it is wholly unnatural, deceitful, and allows people to have disingenuous characteristics. Niccolo Machiavelli knows the importance of deceit to the ruling class too.

Machiavelli says “It is not essential, then, that a Prince should have all the good qualities which I have enumerated above, but it is most essential that he should seem to have them,” (page 46 The Prince) because “men in general judge rather by the eye than the hand. ” (page 47 The Prince) To Marx, money allows this type of transformative deception; however, to Machiavelli this ability seems to be more of a character trait. Machiavelli says this can be achieved by appearing to be the “embodiment of mercy, good faith, integrity, humanity, and religion. (page 47 The Prince) The first four characteristics, he says are the least important when compared to the last. Appearing religious is achievable by being complacent to the Catholic Church and wearing the “cloak of religion”, according to Machiavelli. This “cloak of religion” allows “pious cruelty”, and with his cloak a prince appears justified in his actions, no matter how cruel. (page 59 The Prince). Marx also knows the power of religion to quell the lower class, as the cliche goes, “Religion is the opium of the people. (Lecture Notes 3/6/13) Religion keeps the poor pacified because they are living for a better afterlife. They are also willing to blindly follow religious/political leaders in order not to obscure these chances. Both philosophers understand that money and religion can be deceptive. Machiavelli wishes to utilize this power in accord with dishonest characteristics to keep his subjects pacified. Marx wishes to point out this most unnatural power and free the Proletariat from its grasp.

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Niccolo Machiavelli also understands the power of money, when it comes to the conservation of power. Both political philosophers agree that the best government should not be rapacious. This perceived agreement is actually in stark contrast. Machiavelli believes that a prince should not, “burden his subjects with extraordinary taxes, and to resort to confiscations and all the other shifts whereby money is raised”, (page 41 The Prince) because rapacity “breeds hate as well as ignominy. (page 42 The Prince) To avoid this type of public condemnation Machiavelli proposes that a prince should be surreptitiously miserly and avoid “interfering with the property… of his subjects, than in any other way. ” (page 47 The Prince) Machiavelli is saying that the less a prince interferes with his subject’s money and property, the more likely his reign will succeed. As I have said, Karl Marx disagrees with Machiavelli’s ideas on what the best government should be restrictive of. In the first two measures of the Manifesto of the

Communist Party Frederick Engels and Marx state that one, “Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes”, and two, “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax”, (page 230 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts) are key for a successful revolution of the Proletariat. These measures, along with the other eights purpose, is to rid society of class distinction. Marx wishes to rid society of private property, under the Bourgeoisie’s power, because it is the product of “class antagonism,” and the “realization” of “alienated labor” by an “alienated man. (page 81 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts) The heavy progressive taxes would work to equalize all income. These measures set out by Marx may seem clutching, but they are only meant to restrict the power of the Bourgeoisie. Marx’s perfect form of government would allow workers to keep the product of their labor, that is “the objectification of [their] labor”, instead of it being appropriated by the Bourgeoisie, which ultimately leads to the alienation of the laborer from the world, himself, and fellow man. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts pages 71-72) So Marx’s communism is rapacious, but only in the interest of preventing unjust rapacity by the Bourgeoisie. Marx’s measures are in obvious conflict with Machiavelli because of the two philosopher’s preference and understanding of government. Machiavelli wishes to appease his subjects to a certain extent, whereas, Marx wants the subjugated proletariat to become a public power without political character. But they both do not want anybody grabbing, what they respectively perceive, as someone else’s.

They also understand the power and importance of deceit, although they have somewhat different ideas on how it is achieved. Machiavelli and Marx comparatively are on the opposite side of the coin. Marx represents the suppressed proletariat and wishes to free them. Machiavelli is advising Princes on how to pacify his subjects. These differences are irreconcilable, but hopefully this paper has clearly explained each philosopher’s arguments and given a better idea of how they might be compared.

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