Niccolò Machiavelli  
The Prince
Niccolò Machiavelli was a historian, poet, musician, playwright and
diplomat -- in short what we have come to call a renaissance man --
but he is best remembered for his contributions to political philosophy
through his short treatise The Prince.  Some have suggested that all
political theory is merely a footnote to Plato and Aristotle, but
Machiavelli comes up with some surprising twists unanticipated by the
classical thinkers.  His guide to governing a state is the birth of
realpolitik, the moment at which philosophy sacrifices theoretical
niceties in order to meet immediate and practical needs.    Sometimes
duplicitous or ruthless action is required in Machiavelli's universe.  
Moral principles are subservient to the necessities of power politics.  
Yet Machiavelli's value-free pragmatism inspired intense feelings
among supporters and detractors, and if some saw him as the most
savvy political thinker, others denounced him as an evil, malevolent
mastermind of tyranny and intrigue.  But whether loved or hated,
Machiavelli was always read and studied, and still must be today,
when his tenets continue to hold sway over nations and regimes.   


The text of The Prince in English translation can be found here

Visit for a rich array of web-based resources

And who says political theory can't be fun?  Here is a
quirky essay
The Prince to the Half-Blood Prince . . . yes a study of the
influence of Machiavelli on
Severus Snape

Among modern
commentators on
Machiavelli, none
is more insightful
than Isaiah
Berlin, whose
masterful essay
on the
philosopher can
be found in his
1979 collection
Against the

. . .

Antonio Gramsci
-- perhaps the
most influential
Italian political
thinker after
Machiavelli --
attempted to use
the methodology
of the great
thinker in
promoting the
very overthrow of
the power politics
his predecessor
represented.  See
The Modern
Prince from his
prison notebooks.