Niccolo Machiavelli: The First Secular Theory of the State

Niccolo Machiavelli: The First Secular Theory of the State

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) put forward a political view representing the Renaissance thought that came after the Middle Ages with his work called The Sovereign (Il Principe) written in 1513.

He presents a national and secular state understanding in his work. Machiavelli puts forward the ideal of “national state based on power” (Dinçer 2010, p. 191) in The Sovereign and argues that the state, ruler or sovereign should derive its power from relying on a nation. According to this understanding, the state should not take its power from the Church, it should get rid of being dependent on the Church.

Machiavelli speaks of the virtues and wisdom of the legislators of antiquity, praising the glorious examples of ancient kingdoms and republics. According to Machiavelli, in order to establish a state, protect an established state, rule a kingdom, gather an army, wage a war or dispense justice, it is necessary to imitate the wise and virtuous rulers of the Ancient Age.

Niccolo Machiavelli is an Italian political philosophy writer. He is a political theorist who wants to return to the state view of the Ancient Age.

According to Machiavelli, the sole purpose of the ruler at the head of the state should be to keep the state alive and to increase the power of the state. To this end, anything can be done and any tool to be used is legitimate. Machiavelli expressed in detail what means a ruler who wants to rule should use to maintain his sovereignty. There was no national unity in Italy at the time of Machiavelli. Machiavelli wrote The Sovereign with the ideal of bringing national unity to an Italy divided into small city-states.

According to him, the reason for this division was the Vatican Church in Rome. The first thing to do in order to ensure the absolute sovereignty of the state and the monarch was to overthrow the domination of the Church over the state. Therefore, in the history of political philosophy, Machiavelli is seen as the thinker who prepared the first secular state theory. According to Machiavelli, “Religion, morality and law depend on the state.” (Dinçer 2010, p. 191) and the sovereign as a sovereign power can use them as a tool to maintain the existence of the state and increase its power. Then, according to Machiavelli, the main purpose is the existence and power of the state, because without the state, institutions such as religion, morality and law would have no meaning.

Machiavelli thought that the main purpose of the ruler was to protect and maintain the existence of the state and considered every tool that could be used for this cause legitimate.

Machiavelli says that he took these thoughts out of history. According to him, anyone who carefully examines the events of the past will see what kind of precautions a state has taken in the dangers it faces and will learn from them. The dangers faced by a state in the past may arise again. Therefore, a good study of past facts will make us aware of the facts that may arise in the future and are common to all times. Machiavelli says that these events were brought about by people whose passions and structures remained the same throughout all ages. In other words, he claims that human nature has not changed over the ages.

According to Machiavelli, it is not appropriate for the state or the ruler to set any moral purpose or common good other than himself. What matters is the state itself. A ruler can always identify the common good or moral action with his private interest. “The monarch aims only at maintaining life and the existence of the state. The means he will use to achieve this will always be correct and commendable” (Machiavelli 1984, pp. 85-86). According to him, there is nothing reprehensible in the behavior and actions of a ruler who holds power by force. A ruler who has power by force acts like this because he cannot act otherwise in the circumstances he is in. A monarch has the right to take draconian measures when he is forced to protect his own existence. That is why a monarch or sovereign power must protect its power by the most brutal and radical means.

According to Machiavelli, history repeats itself, past events repeat themselves in history. Therefore, he argues that the dangers that the state of his time may face can be understood by examining the past.

According to Machiavelli, whoever decides to establish a state and enact laws should not forget that human nature is evil. Since people’s nature is bad, they should accept in advance that they will put their evil into action when they get the chance. Laws are necessary for every state, but this evil cannot be corrected by law; can only be prevented by the use of force in practice. So good laws alone are not enough, good weapons are also necessary to be strong.

According to Machiavelli, a ruler can use everything as a tool to maintain his existence and power because he has this right because he is a ruler.

Good laws are ineffective without the use of weapons and force. Past facts in history show this. Therefore, it is necessary for a ruler to learn the art of treason as well as to live virtuously and justly. According to him a ruler