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Machiavelli Niccolo(1469-1527), Florentine diplomat and political theorist who is regarded as the first modern analyst of political POWER. His concern was twofold: the political instability of the Italian city states of his day, and the possibility of restoring to Italy the unity and greatness it had known under the Roman Republic. His main contribution to political thinking was in suggesting that in affairs of STATE a different morality had to prevail from that which governed private relations between men. A ruler who attempted to rule according to the dictates of Christian morality, for instance, would soon find himself ruined, for the simple reason that others would take advantage of him. In The Prince (1513), he argued that the overriding aim was the acquisition and consolidation of power. The prince, therefore, had to act according to circumstances, knowing how and when to break conventional moral codes. Ultimately, the prince had done all that could be expected of him if the political arrangements he bequeathed could be sustained by the engaged energies of an active citizenry. Though best known for The Prince, Machiavelli developed these ideas in other influential works, including The Art of War (1520) and The Discourses on Titus Livius (1532). See also NEO-MACHIAVELLIANS.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000