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The Prince, On Liberty and Social Contract

The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a useful guide for governance, this is apparent from the beginning of the book: its dedication to Lorenzo de Medici, the leader of Florence.

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Chapter 1 and 2 illustrate the book’s scope, a discussion of autocratic systems. These chapters describe the different types of territories and princes, by this, it builds on the outline for the other chapters. The next chapter gives an all-inclusive description of how to sustain composite principalities and goes on to expound on the author’s main fears- power politics, warcraft, and popular goodwill (Machiavelli, chapt. 2).

Chapters 4 to 14 make up the main part of the book. Machiavelli gives practical advice on diverse issues, including the merits and demerits that accompany the various routes to power, how to possess and hold onto new nations, dealing with internal uprisings, forging alliances, and how to sustain a strong military. These chapters reveal Machiavelli’s views on free will, human nature, and moral values.

Chapters 15 to 23 focus on the features of the prince that may make him a good ruler and those that may not. Virtues and vices are both important for a prince to be successful and these must be applied cautiously. The final chapters refer to the failure of past Italian leaders and point out that only Lorenzo de’ Medici can restore Italy’s dignity and pride.

On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill

In this book, Mill resists attempts to coerce people’s views and conduct and argues that only time coercion is suitable when a person’s conduct negatively affects others, otherwise society must value its people’s diversity (Liberal International, para. 4).

Mill defends the importance of liberty through a Utilitarian perspective and links this to the capacity to advance hence keeping social decline at bay. Freedom of opinion is important for two reasons: the less popular opinion may be right and if this opinion is not right, rejecting it will give chance for people to comprehend their own opinions.

Chapter 1 provides a concise outlook of the meaning of liberty. Mill also introduces his essential argument in advocating for liberty as long as it does not harm others. Chapters 2 and 3 illustrate the importance of liberty and other people’s views while the fourth discusses the acceptable level of authority that should be placed over a person. The final chapter looks at specific examples and applications of his earlier arguments (Mill, chapt. 5).

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The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau’s main objective in The Social Contract is to establish how freedom may become a reality in a civil society. He argues that not just freedom, but also reasoning and morality, are possible only in civil society, and civil society, is only feasible if we accept the social contract. Hence, we do not have to appreciate the society for mutual safety and peace it accords us, we also indebt our rationality and morals to the civil society (Rousseau, book 2). In summary, we would not be human had it not been for civil society. This determines the profoundly communitarian approach that Rousseau approves.

Entrance into the social contract places controls on its subject’s behavior and this makes it possible for one to exist in society (Doyle & Smith, para. 13).


The most intellectually satisfying book is On Liberty, as it illustrates how people from diverse backgrounds can mutually co-exist in society simply by appreciating diversity. He gives the importance of taking into account every person’s views on a subject and this could easily extend to political, religious, and ideological differences. If everybody applied Mill’s ideas, the world would be a better place. The least intellectually satisfying book is The Social Contract as it values the social contract at the expense of the people that make it up, seen from Rousseau’s assertion that no human can exist without society. In part, Rousseau’s ideas represent a totalitarian approach. We live in an era where individual rights are very important and it is rather offensive to think that we are just small components of a greater whole.


Doyle, Michele Erina and Smith, Mark K. Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Nature, Wholeness and Education. 2007. Web.

Liberal International. John Stuart Mill. 2010. Web.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. 1515. Web.

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. 1859.

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Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. 1762. Web.

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