Political Science: Understanding. Human Nature in Politics

Political Science: Understanding Human Nature in Politics

Machiavelli Theory.

The Machiavelli theory plays an integral role towards identifying the role that human nature plays in any political environment. In his historical era, many authors had a common belief in the existence of a correlation between human nature in terms of moral goodness and legitimate authority. Many people had a belief that the use of political power was only rightful if exercised by a ruler whose personal and moral character was virtuous. Leaders were given a caution that their ability to succeed was dependent on their ability to behave in accordance to the conventional standards of ethical goodness. Likewise, it was thought that rulers did well when they performed remarkably thereby earned them respect and a right to be obeyed. This explains that if a leader showed them virtuous and moral uprightness, the insight gave them a right to power (Viroli , 2014).

In this sector, Machiavelli criticizes this moralistic approach to authority at length. According to Machiavelli, there is no moralistic view that gives a clear distinction of legitimate and illegitimate use of power. There is a robust correlation of power and authority since whoever has power has the right to command and be respected. Similarly, the virtue of being good does not guarantee a leader power or authority. This shows a direct contrast to a moralistic theory of politics that the only real concern of a leader is the acquisition and maintenance of power. Referring to Machiavelli, goodness and right are not sufficient to win and maintain a political office. He views power characteristically as a sign of political activity and therefore a successful leader needs to know how to exercise power properly and not act in favor of either democracy propel his political agenda. He believes in the ability of power to model the human nature through proper application of power that has the ability to coerce individuals to be brought to obedience. Notably, by having the ingrained ability to use power effectively, the ruler will be able to maintain the state in safety and security (Vivanti , 2013). Machiavelli acknowledges that good laws and arms are an essential part of a well-ordered political environment. Nevertheless, he conclusively states that coercion creates legality and directs his efforts on force. He states that the legitimacy of any law rests upon the threat of a coercive force. For Machiavelli Authority is impossible as a right from the people with separation of the power to enforce it. In relation to the human nature, fear is preferable to affection on the subject of power and authority.

Machiavelli observes that the character of the human nature is that of ingrate, disloyal, insincere, deceitful, timid of anger and enthusiastic for profit. Love is a bond of obligation, which human beings break whenever it suits them to do so. However, Machiavelli observes that fear holds them fast and alters the human nature by a dread of punishment that never ceases. According to him, obligation cannot be separated from the imposition of power. He views the human nature that people only obey because of fear and consequences of not complying, that is, whether loss of life or loss of privileges. He says that power alone is insufficient in shaping the human nature to obedience and obligation to a human authority. Machiavelli explain that people are compelled to obey in deference to superior power of the state. If an individual feels that they should not obey a particular law, what eventually leads that individual to obedience will either be the fear of power of the state or the actual enation of that particular law. He views the power as the ultimate solution to any conflicting political environment in that people defy a particular law if they possess the power to resist the demands of the state or if they are willing to face the consequences of the state’s superiority of the coercive force…

In regards to politics and human behavior, he demonstrates that politics can only be coherently defined in relation to the supremacy of coercive power. He believes that authority, as a commanding right has no independent status.  He authenticates this assertion by referring to the observable reality of political affairs and public life as well as by arguments that clearly gives evidence of self-interested nature. For Machiavelli this self-interested, greedy human nature can only be modelled by an existence of a superior governing power. He gives evidence that it is meaningless and futile to speak of any claim of authority and a commanding power, which is detached from the possession of superior political power. He claims that any ruler who dwells and lives by rights alone will wither in a political environment that has diverse human conflicts. Those who are aggressive by being rough and tumble and prefer power to authority are more likely to succeed. Notably, without the exception of power, authority and supremacy of the laws will never be acknowledged without a backup of power, which renders obedience inescapable.

According to Machiavelli, human nature and obedience to laws can be modelled by attaining a special way of ensuring supremacy of the law. The foundation of successful politics is in the effective exercise of power. In his work, the Prince, Machiavelli employs the concept of virtue to refer to the range of personal qualities that the prince will be obliged to acquire to maintain his state. He expects the prince to have the moral ability to deal with any political conflict by being and having a flexible disposition. In line with his theory, any leader suitable for any political task must be capable of varying their conduct from good to evil as dictated by fortune and circumstance in the political environment. The concept of virtue in his work, the prince entail having the ingrained prowess to know which strategies and techniques are appropriate to specific circumstances. This rule of virtue is therefore bound to be competent in the application of power. Similarly, he views religion as an enemy to the civility of the human nature in that it limits the rational thinking.

Plato Theory

According Plato theory, Plato was influenced by a tradition of skepticism. He gives evidence that people live in a world, which is not an easy source of true and unchanging knowledge.  He reveals that the world is experiencing a constant change. The seasons also reflect that change is inevitable. He explains that nothing is permanent, buildings, animals, people and even trees. He continuous to explain that even the present is deceiving since it comes and goes. Notably, even the body senses, sense of sight, touch and taste can let people down from time to time. He gives an example of water in the desert horizon, which is a mirage.  He explains that what maybe sweet in one season may turn out sour in a different season.  However, he explains that this is not the end of the matter. He believed that behind that world of unreliable appearances, there exists a world of permanence and reliability.  Plato refers to that world as one richly endowed with forms and ideas and thereby more realistic. He says that for anything that can be conceived there is a corresponding form and a perfect example of that thing or property. Plato therefore concludes that true and reliable knowledge rests with those who have the inner ability to comprehend the true reality behind the daily experience in the world.

Notably, to further the idea of reality forms, Plato explains the virtue of true leadership by explaining the concept of Philosopher kings. He explains that they must perceive the form of the virtue of being good in order to be well-informed leaders. Plato idealizes that individuals must be taught to recall the knowledge of these forms because it is immanently present in a person’s mind due to their soul being in the world of forms before birth. In his work, Republic Plato uses the analogy of people who spend whole lives in a cave. He explains that all that those people see are shadows on the walls created by the campfire.  He contrasts this to the reality of the world of the forms since the human nature views real physical objects and events as analogous to shadows. In this context, he also compares it into the political environment in that only the people who have the inner ability to be different to step out and see the true reality of the political forms should rule (Irwin , 1995).

Plato played an important role in showing how the human nature helps to shape the political environment.  He furthers his theory by stating that only special people who have that ingrained ability to view the special forms are fit to rule. Plato explains that the ideal ruler is a philosopher king because only philosophers are able to recognize these special forms. He continues to affirm that true leadership will only be existent if there emerges a leader who views the real forms and who has an ability to channel the whole population to see the true light (Fine , 1999). According to Plato, the human nature has several characters that are key determinants of any stable political environment. In his theory of form, Plato explains that in regards to human beings, all wrongdoing are done in ignorance since everyone desires what is good. The statement explains that any deferment of law or violence is wrong and is a fruit of ignorance. Similarly, it explains that corruption or poor leadership is a symbol of ignorance in the political moral lines. In addition to this, he continues to explain that everyone actually believes in certain moral principles even though some may think they do not have such belief. In his last work, the Laws he tries to explain the basis that plays an integral role in designing a practical government. He explains that the founders of the community are obliged with the details of the statecraft designing rules that are integral to meet the increasing contingencies that are apt to arise in the real world. This work reveals an ingrained confidence in the ability of set rules to meet the real needs of the community.

Conclusively, there exists a correlation between Machiavelli and Plato in showing how the human nature plays a role in modelling any political environment. In both, they place an emphasis in the rule of law that must be respected. Notably, both works explain the confidence that the law had an ingrained ability to meet the demands and the diversity in the political views. Similarly, both acknowledge that a right leader plays an integral role in any political environment. This right leader is able to guide and lead people into the esteemed destination. Likewise, poor leadership and government results from leaders who are not able to address the real needs of the community.  According to Plato, there are forms that must be identified as a face away from the norm. This helps to shape the political environment in that; it enables the society to understand that some of the challenges have other potential causes are the real enemy of the society. The real foe may be the roots of corruption or ethnical profiling that may lead to outward impacts like economic stagnation. All this is modelled by the human behavior.

In addition to this, both works show that definitional knowledge of ethical terms is at least necessary and is integral in bringing out any judgement. Additionally, both works give evidence that a list of ethical requirements is insufficient and inadequate in establishment of a proper and functional government. Proper definitions must state not only what is common but also what unites all people, that is, a constitutional law. Likewise, both admit that human nature cannot be modelled or propelled by virtue. Human behavior is governed by a rule of law, which unites people to a common objective.  The argument is evidence that quality leadership entails identifying the right correlation between the rule of law and moral standard.

Human nature is a key determinant factor for success of any political environment. The ability to model the human behavior determines the role of law in maintenance of justice and order. This therefore determines whether there is supremacy of the law. This research gives insight for quality leadership. It shows that every ruler who wants to govern the state with justice and law must have an ingrained capability through training to model human behavior. The leader must not only address the real needs of the society but must have the willpower to establish a correlation between the law and moral virtue. This will not only ensure that the supremacy of the law is upheld but will ensure morality to evade vices like corruption. The leader must be able to separate the real issues of the community tactfully from the ordinary.


Fine , G. (1999). Plato 1: Metaphysics and epistomology and Plato 2: Ethics, politics and religion and the soul. Oxford : Orford university press.

Irwin , T. (1995). Plato’s ethics . New York and Oxford : Oxford university press .

Viroli , M. (2014). Redeeming the prince: The meaning of Machiavelli masterpiece .  Princeton : princeton university.

Vivanti , C. (2013). Niccoloo Machiavelli: An intelectual biography . Princeton : Princeton university press .

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