Probably the most misunderstood, maligned, and yet astute political observers of all time.This was so in his day, too.
"Astute" is too mild. The problem with Machiavelli is not that he has been misunderstood but that he has been selectively abused. He was fundamentally a believer in first principles. My all-time fave Niccolo quotations are (some listed above, different translation):
May princes know then that they begin to lose [their] state at that hour in which they being to break the laws and those customs and usages that are ancient and under which men have lived for a long time.What I draw from Machiavelli is the following:
a perfect republic... that will run the whole course ordained by heaven.
... in all cities and in all peoples there are the same desires and the same humors, and the same as they always were. So it is an easy thing for whoever examines past things to foresee future [things] in each republic and to take those remedies that were used by the ancients, or not finding any used, to think up new ones based on the similitude of events
- all human affairs are politics;Machiavelli walked with the ancients as we must walk with him today. The American Founders understood this. Machiavelli was an American of 1789, just as America is Rome. This is the core of my political beliefs. I learned it from Machiavelli.
- history is alive.
(and, he liked the girlies, too...)
Do you use it to break the ice with the girls? Does it work as an opening line?
After reading the Prince, I decided to sit down and read the Discourses (all three tomes). I thought that I would have to struggle through them, but found them a very easy read in spite of their length. I have also read his version of the Art of War, but have not gotten around to extracting the quotes from it.
Even though he wrote over four hundred years ago, you can apply most everything he says to present day politics without having to account for time and place or context, which is remarkable.