In secular democracies, power is necessarily derived from the will of the governed. That power is then entrusted to a leader, who Machiavelli would understand to be a prince. Inherently, his book, The Prince, has been close at hand for most politicians for centuries, as it provides general, historically proven advice for principalities and republics on how to govern and maintain relations with their most important resource and the very core of their power, which would be the people themselves. Machiavelli s realization of the penultimate import of the people is probably most significant reason his book holds so much influence on realpolitik.
He writes, it is essential for a prince to possess the good will and affections his people, otherwise he will be utterly without support in time of adversity. (Chapter 9). Clearly, Machiavelli understands the source of power within a princely republic lay with the people, whom the prince must constantly court. No other political philosopher before him had ever given much significance to those being governed. The reason that Machiavelli felt that the subjects were vital to the prince maintaining his rule was because the implications of earning the hatred and ill will of the people are dire for the political future of both the state and the prince. Of the two sources of attack the prince must fear, one is a conspiracy from within inspired by the hatred of the people (Chapter 19).
Additionally, the prince must be aware that actions of his intermediaries can reflect upon himself. That is, if his army is cruel and brutish towards the people, the people will turn their hatred upon the prince, who is seen to tacitly condone the actions of the army. All the advice that Machiavelli provides is given with the acknowledgment of the importance of the people. This is not to say, however, that Machiavelli intended the prince to be indulgent and benevolent to th people, he says quite clearly in Chapter 17, it is much more safe to be feared than loved, when you have to choose between the two Machiavelli s reasoning was that an excess of clemency towards the subjects when they do something wrong would lead to widespread crime, hurting the whole community. Therefore, being cruel and severe to those who deserve it would allow for the greatest utility (Chapter 17). This view on how to maintain relations with the populace is both logical and realistic.
However, Machiavelli draws a clear distinction between being feared and hated. He writes, A prince must make himself feared in such a manner that he shall at least not incur their hatred, for being the feared, and not hated, can go very well together, (Chapter 17). The way that a ruler can earn his subjects hatred, says Machiavelli, is if he steals or harms their property. Therefore, by being severe and cruel in his punishments he inspires fear. In being feared, the prince further secures his empowerment, for none of his subjects dare to attempt to take it from him.
More advice given to the prince by Machiavelli was on general good governance, meaning how to rule, all supported by historical examples. He writes, the prince will avail himself of the occasion to secure himself, with less consideration for the people by punishing the guilty, watching the suspected, and strengthening himself at all the weak points of the province (Chapter 3). In so doing, the prince is neither inaccessible nor invisible, but his justice is obvious to those who are governed. This is key to maintaining both power and good relations with the people. In ruling heterogeneous lands, which is where more than one ethnicity resides and more than one language is spoken, Machiavelli writes that the prince ought to go and reside there which will make his possession there more secure and durable. (Chapter 3).
By living with the people, you can foresee any problems and fix them before they escalate. All of this advice is supported by historical examples, making it valid and sound. Machiavelli understood the importance of keeping the good will of the governed populace, and with this as its backbone, The Prince provides historically supported advice on how to rule. Because of this, the Machiavellian doctrine has been accepted and followed, knowingly or unknowingly, by multitudes of princes, kings, prime ministers and presidents since his time. 350.