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PSIR 1A-10.3 Machiavelli – Previous Year Questions & Answers

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] Comment on Machiavelli’s secularism. [2020/10m/150w/1e]

Machiavelli, the Florentine thinker and statesman is known for pioneering the separation of politics from religion, ethics and morals.

In his books ‘The Prince’ and ‘Discourses on Livy’, Machiavelli holds the church responsible for the moral and political abyss that Florence and Europe were in. Thus, His advice to the Medici Prince in this book is grounded in his conviction that a ruler should not be constrained by religion, its morals or the clergymen imposing it.

Machiavelli emphasizes that religion can put the prince in a dilemma, resulting in inaction. Hence, he declared that the ‘virtú’ of a Prince is to be free from the ethical limitations imposed by religion. This way, he laid the foundation for a secular state.

It’s also important to note that Machiavelli was not against the use of religion altogether. He suggests that religion is a necessity in a state, for it alone can ensure order and discipline among the common men. In ‘The Prince’ he says “where religion exists, it is easy to introduce army and discipline”. And as a corollary, Machiavelli asks the Prince to appear religious in public whenever possible.

Thus, the Machiavellian view on religion is more utilitarian rather than the traditional morality and mysticism associated with it. [207 words]

2] Critically examine Machiavelli’s views on religion and politics. [2018/15m/200w/4c]

Born during the European Renaissance, Machiavelli, as evinced in his books, was a child of his times.

In his book ‘The Prince’, Machiavelli likens politics to a battlefield, where the prince’s hold on power is under constant threat from enemies as well as his subjects. Machiavelli held that the self-seeking nature of man leads him to disobey the ruler, thereby breaking the order in the state. Machiavelli, therefore, advises the prince, in his book, to use ‘coercion of force’ to keep his subjects in conformity with the laws, lest they be violated again.

Machiavelli further says that in politics, fear is always preferable to affection in subjects for “the people love the prince at their will, while they fear the prince at the prince’s will”. Thus, Machiavelli held that Politics revolves around power and its unrestricted use by the ruler.

Machiavelli held that the necessities of politics also demand the prince to be free of ethical and moral constraints imposed by religion. Breaking away from the long-held, idealistic belief that a ruler derives his legitimacy from the virtues of his action, Machiavelli held that a Prince ought to be evil when needed and the moral dictates of religion that put the prince in a dilemma should be shunned.

Machiavelli denounced the papal interferences in the state and blamed them for the moral and political degradation of Florence and suggested the prince to stay wary of such interferences by the Church. However, Machiavelli also asks the prince to appear religious whenever possible for religion can ensure discipline and order in the state.

These ideas propounded by Machiavelli were radical and diverged from the idealistic notions that guided statecraft thus far. The realism that underscored his approach to politics earned him the title of ‘Father of Modern Political Science’. [297 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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