As contemporaries of the 16th century, Niccolò Machiavelli and Martin Luther each perceived a corruption within the present authority. Machiavelli's contention with those in power was almost entirely political and focused on the ineptitude of both the monarchy and papacy. In contrast, Luther expressed contention with the Catholic Church, because he felt that the papacy deemphasized the importance of justification through faith. Nevertheless, the two thinkers both wrote with a clear understanding of the need to reform society rather than dwell on the problems with those in power. However different their approaches to change may be, both Machiavelli and Luther are regarded as revolutionary proponents of change in the age of the reformation.
In both The Prince and The Discourses, Machiavelli firmly opposed the ambitions of the papacy, emperor, and foreign rulers who created chaos in Italy. Machiavelli explained that the fundamental flaw of the Catholic Church was not its pursuit of power, but its failure to seize power effectively. Machiavelli contends that the church's pursuit of power failed, because they neither successfully occupied all of Italy nor allowed anyone else to control it, causing chaos and instability. For example, Machiavelli discusses the way in which Pope Alexander VI's pursuit to make his son a duke ultimately left him engaged in destructive warfare, with only partial control of his land, and caught between two powerful armies. It is clear that Machiavelli's main contention with both the Catholic Church and the monarchy was that they ineptly failed to properly seize political rule, which brought disorganization and foreign rule to Italy. .
Machiavelli identified his problems with current authority and clearly articulated the changes needed. Machiavelli's ideas for reformation included strong leadership and the establishment of a pragmatic political authority capable of systematically executing its plans.