Geopolitics and power: Machiavelli’s thought and the nature of power

Without a doubt, Niccolo’ Machiavelli’s thought was one of the most relevant in the history of political thought as well as in the political debate developed in the Renaissance context. No one has highlighted the physiognomy of political power, its nature and also the relationship, of great interest to us, between geopolitics and power like Machiavelli. The latter is of great importance for us and, to fully understand it, we must understand the nature of the state, its reason for being and the reason for its action which includes the concept of reason of state or vital interest of a state (which is also a geopolitical entity). Only an in-depth analysis of this type can make us understand what the true relationship between geopolitics and power is and why the study of the balance of power between the states of the world (and therefore of the dynamics of power between the latter) can reveal which and the relationship, the object of our analysis, between geopolitics and power. To this end it is therefore appropriate to fully understand the analysis of the Italian thinker of the 16th century and his distinctive traits.


The merit of Machiavelli’s literary work is undoubtedly that of having supported the concept of the autonomy of politics. This discipline in effect has its own laws and is essentially independent of any influence external to it. It cannot be influenced by morality (from which it is totally independent) nor by religion (which in Machiavelli’s conception of the state is a mere  instrumentum regni  or a means to obtain popular consensus from the political summit) nor by philosophical thought. as claimed, for example, by Plato. In summary, a political model cannot derive, as the political idealism of his time claimed, from abstract philosophical doctrines or religious beliefs. In this Machiavelli contrasts himself, clearly and decisively, with all the idealist conceptions that took shape in the Renaissance period. Affirming and supporting a political realism that was the subject of heated discussions. The state entity has its raison d’être in human nature. That is, in the selfish and mostly evil inclinations of the human being whose action does not respond, except with force, to the will and needs of the community (represented precisely by the state). These anthropological considerations explain why the centrifugal tendencies inherent in human beings must be led, even with the coercive force of the state, to become centripetal drives (that is, they must push the action of the single individual towards the good of the state and the community ) and to channel the action of the individual towards the collective benefit and good. The necessity of the state entity, in a conception very similar to that of Hobbes, therefore has specifically anthropological motivations. The state represents the instrument with which man organizes his action and transcends the chaos of the state of nature. The state has as its goal the well-being of the community and the maintenance (and expansion) of itself. And to do this he must use all his energy and all his means. It does not matter whether the latter are questionable from a moral point of view. What matters is the survival and development of the state entity aimed at the well-being and prosperity of its citizens.Political action is therefore aimed at the preservation of the state, its well-being and its economic and territorial expansion. No true statesman can ignore this vision of the state and politics. In doing this, the political class has the right to resort to war when the vital interests of the state are threatened and when the diplomatic path does not allow an accommodation with geopolitical counterparts. “The end justifies the means”. And every means must be used for the survival and preservation of the state entity. Which therefore appears pervaded, like any living organism, by a true instinct of self-preservation which pushes it to work assiduously to continue to exist, to strengthen itself and to expand. But it is obvious that the strengthening of a state can represent a threat to another state and therefore lay the foundations for a conflict of interests which, when it cannot be resolved with diplomacy, must be resolved with war. The very nature of power and the state, as well clarified by Machiavelli, lays the foundations for competition with other states for the control of vital economic resources (agricultural and mineral raw materials), for the control of trade routes or outlet markets , for the exploitation of natural resources (think of wars for water) of vital importance for national economies. This dynamic of conflict and competition is the object of geopolitical discipline. Whose task is to analyze the power relations that arise from this competitive dynamic in accordance with geoeconomics (which defines the economic causes that determine the action of political leaderships and therefore the real interests of geopolitical action) and the historical analysis (which offers us the possibility of clarifying how these conflicts took place and developed in the past as well as comparing them to present ones in such a way as to define differences or analogies). And from which the various “world orders” of history arose (the PAX ROMANA, the PAX BRITANNICA and the AMERICANA are striking examples). That is, those geopolitical structures that have profoundly and for a long time characterized the dynamics of international relations on our planet. In this sense the relationship between geopolitics and power appears very clear. And it differs from that of political analysis which studies and analyzes the developments of power within the various state entities of the world.  


As we had the opportunity to clarify in one of our recent articles ( WHAT IS GEOPOLITICS, IMPORTANCE OF GEOPOLITICS ( ), geopolitics studies and analyzes the dynamics of power in the relationships between the various geopolitical entities of the world. It therefore analyzes the balance of power, also at an economic level (and is therefore associated, in its analysis, with geoeconomics), between the various states of the world. Who are perpetually inserted in a dynamic of competition and antagonism with the sole aim of consolidating themselves on the global geopolitical stage. The aim of states is therefore to increase their wealth and power and to become stronger than they have been in the past. In pursuing this objective, the leaderships of the various nations of the world do not contemplate moral considerations of any kind. And they spare no means of any kind. If reason of state (which includes the vital interests of the same) imposes an end, it does not matter how it is achieved. The important thing is that the objective is achieved. Whatever it takes. Even to the detriment of entire populations and at the cost of thousands or millions of deaths. If the goal can be achieved diplomatically, agreements are reached with other states. But if an agreement is not reached, all that remains is war. Based on a script that has been repeated since the dawn of time. The relationship between geopolitics and power is therefore a very close one. Geopolitics, understood as a specific discipline of study, cannot ignore the analysis of the dynamics of power as it is (and has been) developing in relationships, conflictual or otherwise, between the various nations of the world. Indeed, we could say that it really could not exist, now as in the past, without such an object of study. 

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