Machiavellianism

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Machiavellianism in Psychology is defined as a manipulative strategy of social interaction and personality style that uses other people as tools to achieve for personal gain.[1]

In political science the term "Machiavellian" connotes cunning and deceit, the Prince (1532) - best known work of Machiavelli - is seen by many as the foundation of modern political science for four reasons:

  • its stress on centralized government and bureaucracy
  • its cynicism about character
  • its opposition to the classical, affirmative view of Hebrew Scriptures and Plato
  • its focus on success and efficiency as the supreme goals of government

Today it is often spoken in tone of admiration but Machiavelli's Florentine contemporaries were shocked by his views,[2] some in fact to such degree that they regarded his works to be inspired by devil.[3] We don't know if Machiavelli wrote the Prince as a satire on the way the princes of his day behaved or as serious advise. We do know that more than a few leaders have taken his advice seriously.[note 1] Whatever his objectives were, Machiavelli made his position clear: leaders are essentially selfish, self-interested, and self-protected; they view other people simply as objects to be manipulated. That's why from their perspective, virtuous character is not just irrelevant but also even obstructive and foolish. This is in sharp contrast to Plato who wrote in his Republic that characters of leaders[note 2] are extremely important for public welfare: "the States are as the men are; they grow out of human characters".[2] The contemporary society of Machiavelli's period based its morale on conviction that evil acts in temporal life will cause punishment in eternal life. He turned this perception upside down and refrained from mentioning Bible or Christianity in his writings. His ostentatious avoidance of addressing the question of the Last Judgement in this respect excited resentment.[3][note 3]

Contents

Quote from The Prince[2]

A prince has never lacked legitimate reasons to justify his breach of faith. ...But it is necessary to know how to disguise this nature well and how to pretend and dissemble. Men are so simple and so ready to follow the needs of the moment that the deceiver will always find someone to deceive. ...So a prince need not have all the aforementioned good qualities, but it is most essential that he appear to have them. Indeed, I should go so far as to say that having them and always practising them is harmful, while seeming to have them is useful. It is good to appear clement, trustworthy, human, religious, and honest, and also to be so, but always with the mind so disposed that, when the occasion arises not to be so, you can become the opposite. ... a prince should stick to the path of good but, if the necessity arises, he should know how to follow evil.

See also

Notes

  1. Florentine Catherine de' Medici, Queen consort of French king Henry II and regent for Charles IX, has traditionally been blamed by historians to be the one of the first who adopted Machiavellian principles in what was later coined as the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day (Aug. 2425, 1572).
  2. cf."we compel them to have some care and responsibility for others" from Plato:The Parable of the Cave
  3. cf."Marx called religion 'the opium of the people'. However, the Nobel Prize winner Czeslav Milosz argued: 'A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death - the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.'"[4]

References

  1. Harriet B. Braiker (2004). Who's pulling your strings? How to break the cycle of manipulation and regain the control of your life. The McGraw Hill, 85. ISBN 0-07-144672-9. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Guinness, Os (2007). in Virginia Mooney Withrow: When no one sees: Character and leadership in an age of Image. McLean, Virginia: TheTrinityForum.org. ISBN 1-57683-159-0. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 William Raeper, Linda Edwards (1997). Brief guide to ideas. Lion Hudson, 175-181. ISBN 9780310227748. 
  4. What is life about?. EVS and JPK. Retrieved on 2012-11-18.
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