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Machiavelli And Arendt


Machiavelli And Arendt


“Totalitarian policy claims to transform the human species into an active unfailing carrier of a law to which human beings otherwise only passively and reluctantly be subjected.” A statement in Hannah Arendt’s Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government, in this essay she outlines and defines totalitarianism. Her explanation includes many variables that can be misrepresented as those ideals set forth by Niccolo Machiavelli in his 1513 working The Qualities of the Prince.

According to Arendt totalitarianism is made of several qualities. She describes an end state of “world domination” accomplished by tyranny. In this lawless government, a single individual will have power that is provoked in his own interest rather than that of the people. Under this action, there will be no “general agreement” as to laws that will be implied, rather, there will obedience and humans will follow the “laws of nature”. Hence, totalitarianism is a movement by mankind to become “One man” states Arendt. Thus, this statement alone is not congruent with Machiavelli’s idealistic values of a prince.

Within his work, Machiavelli outlines and defines those qualities and assumptions that a leader, a prince, must possess in order to succeed or for that matter, fail.



In recounting the essay, the Prince first has a duty to become a master of war. In doing so he will be prepared in the time of adversity. By enduring personal sacrifice in peacetime, he will in turn learn to be proactive when facing famine, restlessness and pain.

Arendt’s totalitarianism describes the need for a military to destroy all those opposed to the movement. Her use of force is for the destruction of those not in the movement, as Hitler did to the Jewish. Machiavelli’s battle would rather be compared to an Army protecting it’s borders from foreign invasion.

The act of a person being generous can often be taken for granted. A Prince must balance his fruitfulness by taking little from his people while giving little to his people. In doing so, by maintaining equality, he will only be miserly to “those to whom he gives nothing” states Machiavelli, ending with a position where the welfare of the people is always in his intentions to create a harmonic existence. Arendt’s ruler would rather take and use everything of the people in order to assist the cause, “sacrifice the parts for the sake of the whole”. This state of business is not for the welfare of man.

“A prince must not worry about the reproach of cruelty when it is a matter of keeping his subjects united an loyal”. When executing cruelty onto others and admonishing mercy, it is imperative that the conditions create a sense that will avoid hatred from the people. The underlying use of terror will be to maintain this balance. In the guidelines of totalitarianism, terror is the use of force to enact its will and movement on the masses. It is the ultimate deterrent to the enemy state and is “the essence of the total government”, states Arendt.

Although similar in stature, the Prince and totalitarian are two different men with completely different agendas. While both prescribe to the violent eruption, one is for he own self -keeping while another is for the outlandish spreading of his movement. Balancing the loyalty of the people may be difficult for the Prince who must display mercy and cruelty while providing a habitat that will suffice his appetite. The leader of the totalitarian movement cannot and will not be concerned the individual values or ideas in his kingdom. He instead will construe only that which is necessary for the future of the race while not concerning himself with the welfare of the state and its people. These evident cues are the basis that The Prince and the totalitarian cannot be the same person.




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