The Indian Machiavelli?

While Machiavelli remains one of the brightest names in the field of political science, Chanakya, the Indian Machiavelli- as Wikipedia introduces him, in spite of the fact that his works predate Machiavelli’s by about 1,800 years- the founding father of the Mauryan Empire after defeating the Nanda and Alexander’s forces, remains underrated.

History is filled with texts on statecraft and political power. However, both Chanakya and Machiavelli stand out from the crowd, primarily because they are the ones who succeeded in differentiating ethics from political science. None of the two are interested in the ideal state or the fullest moral development of political men. They are more concerned with the security of the state and internal harmony. Also, these two authors represent a clear break with idealism and morality, and are the first to suggest that the root of state power is force. The fundamental question is how the state is being ruled and not who is ruling the state. I might disagree with Realpolitik, but it definitely has its space and utility in the political spectrum.

In the West, Machiavelli’s works are considered the principal texts of realism in diplomatic complexity. The Arthashastra, written in 320 BC, rediscovered in 1904 by R. Shamasastry and was translated into English by 1915. Ironically, this text has remained neglected despite the efforts of British and German Indomaniacs. Recently Jaideep Prabhu also came up with a beautiful and exhaustive research comparing the two political magnum opus. It is a highly recommended read for political enthusiasts.


One response to “The Indian Machiavelli?

  1. Jaideep A. Prabhu

    Thanks for the recommendation 🙂 And readers, please feel free to discuss on my post – would love a good discussion. Allow me to make another recommendation (other than the primary texts, of course) – a short book, titled, Kautilyan Antecedents of the Westphalian Order. It is a short book (172 pages) priced at something around Rs. 3,700 – so get it from a library!

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