Last Updated 09 Apr 2020

Machiavelli: Fear

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According to Nicolo Machiavelli, fear should play a very significant role when it comes to the world of politics because it is the central driving vehicle to success as well as power, control, and reliability; it is because of fear that societies agree to justice and security. He believed that fear was an essential aspect to politics because of its relation to love, control, and hatred. When taking in Machiavelli’s perceptions of both the concepts of fear and love, it is clear that fear takes precedence over love in his opinion.

This is shown in his book, The Prince, when he wrote “since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved” (The Prince, 1994). Essentially Machiavelli is stating that although it is desired by many to be both feared and loved, it is very difficult to be both feared and loved by everyone, and that fear is more reliable since one of them must be lacking in some aspect (The Prince, 1994).

In addition, Machiavelli argued that a Prince himself should not show fear, since it would weaken his appearance and/or his reputation which, according to Machiavelli, should be carefully monitored (The Prince, 1994). Machiavelli also argued that fear keeps the people of a society in line; it “preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails” (The Prince, 1994). Furthermore, Machiavelli believed fear to be an instrument that can provide a prince with great power because of its reliability and stability. In addition, Machiavelli argued that a person should only trust the things that he or she can control.

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That being said, a person cannot be forced or commanded to love another person. Therefore, a ruler should only rely on things he or she can control. This is because fear is a necessary means to being respected as a leader, and it is the responsibility of a leader to have control over his or her society; fear leads to obedience, a key aspect to having control over a society (The Prince, 1994). Furthermore, one thing a ruler (prince) can have control over is fear. This is because the people in a society are afraid of punishment and they are intimidated by the ruler, so they act in accordance with the ruler’s laws.

Furthermore, fear is a necessary and a key aspect to being successful and powerful in the political sphere. Machiavelli was not someone who was interested in what was morally correct, but rather what was politically beneficial. That being said, just because Machiavelli argued that a Prince should be feared by society, he is not arguing that he should also be hated by his society. This is shown in The Prince when he wrote “Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred” (The Prince, 1994).

This quotation is significant because it shows that Machiavelli viewed the concept of hatred as a very bad thing; he saw hatred as the end. That being said, in his view, it is important if a ruler is not loved by the people that they are also not hated by the people. Furthermore, through the eyes of Machiavelli, a ruler (prince) should be feared by the people, but never hated by the people (The Prince, 1994). In the mind of Machiavelli, fear is an important element of politics, not just for its own sake, but for many other reasons.

Fear is an emotion of reliability, as well as an instrument for control over a society. Fear is necessary for the sake of the greater good of a society. Furthermore, fear ought to be used appropriately and it is not to be taken lightly, as it should not lead to hatred. In conclusion, Machiavelli viewed fear to be a means to effective leadership; he argued that it pushes people together and it results in security and stability of society (The Prince, 1994). Fear is a way to maintain power and authority over society, and thus it should play an important role in politics according to Machiavelli.

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