Despotism and Machiavellian Theory are similar ideologies in that both refer to forms of government where a sole ruler uses adequate and consequential power to deal with the governed body of people. In a despotism, though the ruler has unlimited power, he is not necessarily harsh or cruel to the people. Infact, he may be kindly and considerate and may even put the welfare of the people above his own wishes. But usually, despots do not feel bound by the preferences of their subjects, and they sometimes use force to maintain power. Likewise, Machiavelli viewed the state as an organism with its ruler as the head and its people as the body. He maintained that a healthy state is unified, orderly, and in balance, and that its people have happiness, honor, strength, and security. However, an unhealthy state is disorderly and unbalanced, and may require strong measures to restore it to normal. Machiavelli called for a leader to use any means necessary to preserve the state, resorting to cruelty, deception, and force, if nothing else worked. As a result many people thought he supported the use of cruelty and deceit in politics.
World Book Encyclopedia Vol.5,13 (1992)