Born on May 3, 1469.
Niccolo Machiavelli was a most complex man: a writer, poet, a pundit of political and military theory, songwriter, a guidance counselor to princes, a reviled humanist, and a man who lent his name, not only to a psychological syndrome, but to as a somewhat derogatory descriptive used by the general public.
Machiavelli is often cited as the founder of modern political science and political ethics. Considering how negative the connotation of his name is, it almost makes one wonder if that is the reason for the political mess of the current world.
Machiavelli’s best known work is The Prince in which he imports to instruct a young ruler in the ways of government. The Prince is, at its heart, a manual to acquiring and keeping political power.
Machiavelli is the source of the very popular (in some circles) political theory “the end justifies the means”.
Every century a new theory emerges as to the meaning and purpose of The Prince ranging from literal to ironic to satirical. The author’s true intent may never be known.
It is generally agreed The Prince endorses what most would consider to be evil and immoral behavior. “Politics have no relation to morals.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
More often than not, Machiavelli’s collected writings are unsystematic, inconsistent and sometimes self-contradictory.
For example this almost sounds like sage advice: “The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
And these quotes sound like it could have come from more modern day revolutionaries.
“I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it. – Niccolo Machivelli
“When you disarm the people you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence, and both of these opinions generate hatred.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
This is one of the best historical guides I found on Machiavelli. http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/machiavelli.html
This is an excellent New York Times piece on “Why Machiavelli Still Matters”
This site is dense, but thorough http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/machiavelli/
Now on to the word he gave his name to: Machiavellian. The OED defines Machiavellian as “Cunning, scheming and unscrupulous, especially in politics”.
My own search on Machiavellian netted me such gems as:
cunning, expedient, opportunist, artful, astute, calculating, conniving, crafty, deceitful, devious, plotting, shrewd, sly, underhanded, unscrupulous, wily, manipulative, canny, designing, guileful, intelligent, premeditating, scheming, cagey, tricky, observant, treacherous, corrupt, crooked, dangerous, disingenuous, perfidious, surreptitious, subtle, and wormlike
These two clichés also stood out: “Crazy like a fox” and “like a snake in the grass”
In Psychology, Machiavellianism is real and disturbing. It is described as being unemotional and detached from conventional morality with a tendency to deceive and manipulate others. Machiavellianism is part of the dark triad along with narcissism and psychopathy.
There are Low Machs and High Machs.
Low Machs give a high priority to money, power and competition and a lower priority to community-building, self-love, and family concerns. Unfortunately, we all know a few of these people. Then there are the High Machs who focus on achievement and winning at any cost.
“Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries – for heavy ones they cannot.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
These are great sites on the psychological aspect of Machiavellianism
This site is cluttered with adverts, but the information is good. http://www.psychforums.com/narcissistic-personality/topic11253.html
This is a great outline 48 Laws of Power and The Machiavellian Personality
There are also many non-scientific quizzes to find out how Machiavellian you are. Fun to take if you aren’t too scared of the outcome. The sheer number of these tests show how influential and
long-lasting the work of Machiavelli has been.
Check out these Machiavellian characters in popular culture http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22537324
My favorite quote by Machiavelli:
“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”
Read the book THE PRINCE by NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI and decide for yourself which of the hype through all the ages is true and what of the contradictory messages of Machiavelli can you see as a truth of this age.