Correlation of Liberty and Power

Analysis of the Discourse of Power and Desire in Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy Sovereignty presents us with the possibility of pursuing our desires under a stable and secure community. This sovereignty is dependent upon the individual’s willingness to be placed under a social contract. Such an agreement is tantamount to allowing one’s self to be “locked into a set of limited conditions for both analysis and practice” since it entails the individual’s passive agreement to the discourse attached to the social contract (Shaw 10).

Such an account of the correlation of individual desires within a political setting follows a Hobessian account of the formation of a social contract. It has been stated that such an account is highly different from the Machiavellian perspective since within the Hobessian setting, individuals enter the contract out of fear whereas in the Machiavellian setting, individuals enter the setting with full awareness of the autonomy that he relinquishes towards the state.

However, I would like to argue that although there is an awareness of freedom in the part of the individual, this freedom would always be displaced when political autonomy is at risk. If such is the case, the individual will still be placed within a rigid set of rules that glorifies the state or the republic therefore the knowledge accessible to the individual within a Machiavellian political setting will always be dependent upon the parameters, which defines the love for the republic.

In lieu of this, this paper will present an analysis of the political correlation of desire and power as presented in Machiavelli’s political philosophy. The importance of such a discussion lies in Machiavelli’s portrayal of the social conflict between the desires of domination and non-domination [desire of rule and no-rule]. Vatter presents the aforementioned conflict succinctly as he states that Machiavelli’s political philosophy portrays a “political conflict between the form of rule and the desire for freedom as no-rule” (94).

This is evident in Machiavelli’s conception of the people’s desires not to be commanded or oppressed as was stated in his book The Prince (33). It is important to note that such a conception of political conflict presents the complexities evident in the possession as well as the affirmation of individual autonomy. The importance of Machiavelli’s notion of the concept lies in its focus on the means in which freedom can enter the political life as an effective force that enables the maintenance of the security and stability of the state.

If such is the case, Machiavelli’s political philosophy may thereby be seen as depicting a manner in which seemingly contradictory desires may be met through the adherence to a political form that enables the distinction between personal ethics and political ethics. What follows is an elucidation of Machiavelli’s concept of desire within the personal [private] and the political [public] spheres. The concept of desire entails the idea of the absence of an object desired as well as the necessity to obtain it. However, it is important to note that there is no logical correlation between desiring and obtaining what one desires.

In other words, desiring something does not entail obtaining that thing. To desire does not necessarily entail the attainment of the object desired but merely entails the possession of an understanding of the object desired. In Machiavelli’s political philosophy, one can perceive the intimations of the object desired [that being power]. The intimation of such is made apparent by its absence or loss. Such an intimation or awareness thereby leads an individual within the Machiavellian framework to consider the various means necessary in order to overcome the obstacles evident in obtaining the object of one’s desires.

Consider for example the desire for power as presented by Machiavelli in The Prince. Within the aforementioned book, Machiavelli conceives of political power as an “ultimate and unquestioned power” whose “pursuit demands an exhaustive determination, just as disputing or resisting it sometimes calls for desperate measures” (Tarlton 39). The principal focus of Machiavelli’s political thinking in The Prince falls upon the means to power to which Machiavelli presents a practical and moral explanation.

In a practical sense, he offers a political science that shows prospective princes the actions they must commit and avoid in order to achieve power. Morally, he creates an ethical vacuum within which the only decisive normative consideration necessary to political actions is whether they are likely to succeed or not. In this sense, Machiavelli’s political and moral philosophy may be ascribed a pragmatic character. In order to understand the aspect of pragmatism involved in his philosophy, it is necessary to elucidate in his conception of the public and private spheres of social life.