Thursday, March 9, 2000

Karl Marx and Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machaivelli

The discussion of state building has occurred across the ages since the time of Socrates up to the present day philosophers.  Much of the ground breaking philosophies have been developed enhanced and published in the historical and subjective annals.  Of which, they are studied and critiqued in academia for their respective foundations in societal arts topics, like philosophy, humanities, government, ethics, politics and so on.  As a concept, State building began in the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, each laid foundation to the concepts, that we know as the philosophy of man, and how humankind would best thrive within societal governance.  Each man addressed the various methods for collective work towards the establishment of an orderly process to maintain the safety, the pursuit of happiness, and the orderly economic advancement of its citizens.  As difference in philosophies are many, a look at opposites may still provide common elements, in particular Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machaivelli (1469 – 1527) of the Republic of Florence, to Karl Marx  (1818 – 1883) of Germany.
The definition of state itself has a range of meaning starting with the discussion of cities, from ancient times, Republics and Monarchies, to the social contract theories of Hobbes and Locke, shortly followed by the instrument of class domination by Marx, and most recently the modern theorists’ reference of a collective action for problem solving (Boix).  This is a vast range of concepts to explain a common phenomenon within societies bonding themselves for the advancement in the quality of life and the prosperity of a society.  These definitions have ranges that expand from the simplistic sense of the State as a given territory on though a system of bonded territories, or a bond based on a shared economic goal.
Many theorists begin by describing the state of man, and what their intrinsic values would contain if left unorganized.  Some describe man as self destructive, unethical, and selfish,
with no intentions to consider the well being of his fellow man.  Others, like St.Augustine describe man as fundamentally good, with a need to nurture, and a natural desire to maintain individual freedoms for successful advancements of his himself and his people.  There is much space between these vast opinions, thus the emergence of a variety of theorists that have found elements within this vastness from which to cast frameworks of philosophies. The best of these theorists often temper their analyses by including, faith, economics’, politics, ethics and justice. For this discussion on state building, the focus shall be the philosophies of Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machaivelli (1469 – 1527) of the Republic of Florence, to Karl Marx  (1818 – 1883) of Germany.
Machiavelli ruled the Republic of Florence from the values of ancient concepts, applied to the sixteenth century Europe. His motivations are clearly focused on the political challenges of this time, and not generalized.  Critics claim that he is no philosopher (Critchley), merely a great writer who discusses old concepts and the most influential means to form government.  His most known work is the Prince, but it is not the work with his most notable aphorisms.  That work is the Discourses upon the First Decade of Titus Livius, in which there is strong republicanism and inadvertent teachings to the people.
These writings extol a practical stability, and an intellectual flexibility that is to be separated from the ancient teachings which had a basis in Christianity.  Machiavelli is completely secular and has no divine or sacred references towards the next life.  His focus on the here and now of human behavior begins to formulate a new morality basis through humanism in place of citizenship.  He also rejects moral order determined by God, and that the “best” life is self- acquired via fame, honors and power (Machiavelli).  This is not to say he was amoral, quite
the contrary as everything he wrote was connected to ethical questions and the art of ruling and that religion could be utilized as a tool of the ideals of the state.  His measurement of virtue does not come from Stoic or Christian doctrines, but relies on an individual’s ability to achieve success.
Even though many have portrayed Machiavelli as a trainer of tyrants in the Prince, he is in fac,t in condemnation of a tyranny; and in strong support, of a republic of a free and eventually a popular government.  In his writings the basic antitheses is that human beings work through choice or necessity (Machiavelli).  The less choice, the greater the virtue, and people will do good only through necessity, which contradicts his support of independence, freedom and self-rule. He finds Italy corrupt and represents the German and Swiss states as outstanding examples of government, producing freedom and goodness for all of its citizens.  He has a constant battle with the Medici over power, acceptance, and advancement (Plain Text Histories).  The Medici retained their wealth and their political power within a circle of entitlement based on bloodlines.   This ruling by entitlement is an issue that Machiavelli, writes in support of, as a Monarchy; but contradicts through his actions in attempting to inject himself for more territory and powers, which the Medici repeatedly deny him.
Karl Marx is a man of many titles, revolutionary, sociologist, historian, economist and writer.  His most famous work is collaboration with Friedrich Engles, entitled Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848), he was thirty year old.  In English this was The Communist Manifesto, he also authored Das Kapital and the two form the foundation of the socialist movement also known as Marxism or communism (McLellan).  This is a technical and economic reference to the relationship of commodities, wages, and how workers are exploited by
capitalism.  Marx conveys the socialist by his opinion that commodities have a use value and an exchange value.  In capitalism the worker improves the commodity so those in power make a profit in reselling these processes commodities.
In this work Marx also discusses the amount of surplus labor and if a worker is using his disposable time for himself, he would be theoretically robbing the capitalist (Sparknotes).  The distinction between the worker and the capitalist is in essence social existence of a class system.  Since the person is free to sell his labor, he must also be willing to accept the buyers’ rate of exchange.  In the case where the worker does not control the means of production, the class system favors the Capitalist.  So if this is true it still does not explain where the attitude of a capitalist began.  And where the need for this endless money come from, and what made people view money as an end to a goal (McLellan). 
Marx rejected Christian Gospels stating that they were fantasies stemming from humanities emotional needs and that Jesus was not a real person.  He also found agreement with the work of Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, (1841) .  These writings placed material conditions before ideals, and the change and need came about through work and revolution.  Within the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels claim that all history was a class struggle, and that the proletariat would end class in society forever .  This work, prescribed ten steps toward communism, including a progressive income tax, free education for all children, and an abolition of inheritances.
Like Machiavelli, Marx doctrine is filled with contradictions about state building and the value of its citizens.  They both had strong writing skills but both navigated themselves away from public controversies, and would not subject themselves to debate amongst their intellectual
equals of the period.  For different stated reasons, but nonetheless; one might wonder what common doubt or fears they may have possessed.  Also obvious is the time period differences in which they lived, and who influenced them during their respective lives.  For Machiavelli, his
desire for perfect power was foiled by the Medici power of the time, and for Marx he drew the criticism of all anti-communist governments (Plain Text Histories).
They also shared a rejection of organized religion, and agreed that mankind needed to face life for its realties in the here and now.  They both believe that religion robbed mankind of its true strength, by imposing a higher being over mans own hard work and accomplishments.  These beliefs would have been necessary for either of them to get beyond the moral purpose of man is to serve God, and that the true morality was controlled by the society of man. 
Another agreed principal within the area of state building under Machiavelli and Marx is the value of the citizen.  Both saw that work was a very high commodity, and that other Republics and governments did not place a high enough value on it, thus taking advantage of its citizens.  There is an inevitable corruption that occurs within the acquisition and maintenance of power.  For Machiavelli, the existence of class is necessary, so that the rulers have an entitlement that is accepted by citizens.  Further citizens have little opportunity to advance outside of their social class.  The existence of entitlements filters downward through the various levels of authority, social standing, education and wealth within the overall society of governance.  The concept of serving for the good of the government is mandated by a ruler, or monarch, but cannot hold a society over the long term. For Machiavelli tried repeatedly to advance his standing within the Medici, and was never successful in gaining advancement beyond the government of Florence.   It is interesting however, that both Marx and Machiavelli believed and
supported the establishment of the servant-soldier model to maintain order and to protect the society from becoming prey to ambitious outsiders, or to for expansionary purposes.  Thus war is well supported as a tool of state building, and has been deployed to create “States”, (Boix).
Both Marx and Machiavelli agree in the need for soldier citizens, and a system in which they may be rewarded for excellence in the art of war.  It is a perplexing issue in the case of Marx, as would this not in essence be the support and creation of a special class?  Although the soldier is defined as a part of the proletariat, is he or she really?  Are they not rewarded with property, money and or title?
There exist numerous contradictions within the writings of both Machiavelli and Marx.  What they wrote was theoretic, and neither really held themselves totally accountable to live the life, or as we say walk the talk.  Both men were educated, which indicates financial means, and both held roles of leadership that were not their ultimate fruit.  Were there analysis and opinions a factor of their ultimate goals?  Were they in essence the manipulators of their times and their respective ambitions?  I believe strategist might identify the methodology of opposition to be a strong motivator, and in the case of Machiavelli and Marx this would be a good fit, and yet another commonality in their personalities.  They were men who actively avoided any academic conflict through a dialogue with their peers, of opposing theories.  Marx was especially purposeful to elevate his writing to the Utopian concept, and never sought to debate, nor to entertain the criticisms or concepts of others, especially if these individuals would be his intellectual peer (Hammen).  If there were any societal or economic weaknesses in the deployment of socialism, Marx would not validate them by acknowledgement or discussion.  He

purposefully kept at a distance any discussion of ethics and justice as in a Utopian society, neither would be relevant.
Therefore, within the theories and writings of Machiavelli and Marx, we can find elements of state building where they are in agreement.  Both of these theorists embrace the concepts of public goods and the public as society’s servants.  There is an overall reliance on the necessity of taking away certain individual freedoms, so that the state can thrive.  In addition, they both agree in the power and ultimate authority of a leader, and other entitled leaders.  It is true they were both good writers, and had set to print ideas that are still discussed today as valid components to a certain style of state building.


5.1 Marx and Class Conflict, extracted 110413, V. Vargas (n/d).

Critchley, P. Machiavelli and the Citizen Ideal, (2004). Exercpt from The City of Reason Vol. 3 Universitas – The City From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, (2004). Academia Books.

Hammen, Oscar J., Friedrich Engels, Encyclopedia Britannica, (n/d). Extracted by V. Vargas Nov. 18, 2013.

History World, History of the Medici, (n/n), (n/d). Extracted by V. Vargas November 29, 2013.

Machiavelli, N. (1517). Discourses. Reprinted in English, Penguin Classics, ISBN-10 0140444289.

Marx, K. The Communist Manifesto (1848).  The Communist Manifesto, Encyclopaedai Britanica, Article Free Pass, McLellan David T. . 

Oxford, State-Building in Historical Perspective (Carles Boix) (2010). Extracted by V. Vargas Nov. 2013.

SparkNotes, Das Kapital, Marx, K. (1867). Philosophy Study Guides, Ch, 1, 4, 6, and 10. extract, V. Vargas 11-28-13.                                                                                                                   

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