Arthashastra, the oldest Book on Total Management & War Strategies

Kautilya's Arthashastra is the oldest book on Management available to the world. It was written by Kautilya (also known as Chanakya and Vishnugupta) in 300 BC. When literally translated, it means 'Scripture of Wealth'. The main focus of the book is on creation and management of wealth

However, the book is a masterpiece which covers a wide range of topics like statecraft, politics, military warfare, strategy, selection and training of employees, leadership skills, legal systems, accounting systems, taxation, fiscal policies, civil rules, internal and foreign trade etc. It also covers various technical subjects including medicine, gemology, metallurgy, measures of length, tables of weights, divisions of time, among many others.

All but unknown in the West, the Arthashastra by Kautilya (Chanakya), is considered one of the greatest political works of the ancient world. Written nearly three centuries before the birth of Christ, the famous Nineteenth Century sociologist Max Weber said of it, “compared to it, Machiavelli’s The Prince is harmless.”¹ In it, Kautilya expressed the desire for his king to conquer the world and to aid in that goal he offered an analysis of which kingdoms he considered natural allies and which inevitable enemies, gave advice on who should be attacked and when, how to treat defeated enemy soldiers and citizens, when to make and break treaties, and even described a calculated willingness to make use of assassination, which he called “silent war”, as a legitimate means to achieve victory. He advocated the use of secret agents, not only for assassinations, but to sow discord among enemy leaders; he viewed women as one of the most effective weapons of war — especially in the role of secret agent; believed in the use of either religion or superstition to inspire his own troops and demoralize the enemy’s, and heartily approved of the spread of disinformation.

He believed that every nation acts to maximize its own interests and power. Alliances were only good as long as they were in the best interest of both parties. However, as soon as the balance of power shifts, allies may become enemies…and enemies may become allies. Since this is the natural order and to be expected, it is only responsible of the king to maintain his own kingdom’s best interest at heart when dealing with foreign powers, be they friend or foe. One retains an ally, not because of goodwill or a moral obligation, but due to one’s strength, the use of which can advance both one’s own self-interest as well as that of an ally. “…when one has an army, one’s ally remains friendly, or the enemy becomes friendly.” The fact that countries act in their own self-interest was a timeless principle of Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Treaties were meant for states of equal power. Having an ally is good, yes, but alliances only last as long as they are in the ally’s self-interest. The strength of any kingdom could change abruptly due any number of unforeseen events, such as famine or earthquake. Should a kingdom be weakened by calamity, it would become ripe for conquest. Because of this, even times of peace had the potential to erupt into warfare. Therefore, it was only right that the king should be prepared for such an eventuality.The political science outlined in the Artha??stra was aimed entirely at conquering one’s enemy and his territory. This brought more wealth to the kingdom, allowing the king to raise more armies and conquer more territory with the ultimate goal of conquering the world. So how to accomplish this? It all depends on the strength of the enemy. This meant one must deal with one’s various neighbors according to their strengths and weaknesses. Naturally, the most important step to conquering weaker enemies was to raise successful armies and here wealth was the key, although by this he meant a method of paying for weapons, chariots, and elephants, as well as keeping the soldiers fed, well-paid, and happy. It did not mean the purchasing of mercenaries, who Kautilya considered unreliable. But for stronger enemies, there was the outlet of diplomacy.

He referred in his Arthashastra, compiled in the 4th century BC, a list of objects that were used for the manufacture of coins. The process of making coins can be summarized as 

Punch Mark Coins

  • Metal was first melted in crucibles (Musha) and purified with Alkaliea (Kshara).
  • It was beaten into sheets on an anvil (Adhikarni) with a hammer (Mushtika).
  • Sheets were later cut into pieces with clippers (Sandansa) to a particular weight.
  • Finally the pieces were stamped with dies or punches having symbols (Bimba-Tanka).