The New Machiavelli by Jonathan Powell

the new machiavelliA couple of years ago I studied a couple of courses on Political Philosophy and one of the authors I enjoyed reading was Niccolo Machiavelli and his book The Prince.  Machiavelli’s style of writing is sharp, direct and seems modern to a reader in the 21st Century.  The Prince has been called the longest job application in history because it was written by Machiavelli for Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, grandson of “Lorenzo the Magnificent“, and a member of the ruling Florentine Medici family.  Machiavelli hoped that The Prince, a summary of his knowledge about the nature of princes and “the actions of great men”, would find favour with the Medici’s.

So it was with interest that I noticed that Tony Blair’s former Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell had written a book on applying Machiavelli to a modern political environment.  Once I downloaded ‘The New Machiavelli’ onto my Kindle I found the book to be a little gem of quotes.  Here are just a couple:

“Generally speaking it is the optimistic candidate who wins and the pessimistic one that loses.”

“the Chief of Staff should relieve his boss of any management responsibilities and leave him to concentrate on setting a vision, deciding policies and making speeches.”

“If you want to have influence, you have to give your advice in private.  If you boast about your successes, or brief the media on your role, you immediately negate any influence you have and deal yourself out of internal discussions.”

Powell is obviously a lover of history and like The Prince I found the New Machiavelli to be short, crisply written and possessing of a certain clarity.  It is also peppered with stories from Labour’s ‘sofa government’ and some of the thinking behind the decisions of Blair and his advisors.  If you are a fan of politics or political philosophy then I’m sure you’ll find this book a fascinating read.  I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Machiavelli quotes:

“A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savor of it. Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark, not to reach by their strength or arrow to so great a height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach.”

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