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Machiavellianism 101

Machiavellianism is one of the three personalities found in the Dark Triad of personalities.  The other two personalities are psychopathy and narcissism.  Machiavellianism 101 will further discuss to you the origin of this type of personality, the origin of its term and the person behind it, and how to better understand the idea of Machiavellianism and how it’s connected to a book called The Prince.  This book might be a short one, but it has had a huge impact on its time along with plenty of its readers over the centuries.

Who was Niccolo Machiavelli?

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3, 1469.  During his time, Italy was still divided into four rival city states, and all of them were at the mercy of more powerful governments scattered across Europe.  Machiavelli was considered to be the father of modern political theory.  He managed to find troubles in the French Invasion of 1493, after the powerful Medici family fled the country.  Machiavelli was an Italian political philosopher, a playwright, a poet, and a musician.  He is one of the key figures of the Italian Renaissance, especially in its political component.  He was also famous for his treaties on realist political theory (as evidenced by his book The Prince), and republicanism (seen in most of his works, including Discourses on Livy).

When he turned 29, Machiavelli joined Florence’s world of politics.  When he became defense secretary of Florence, he managed to set himself apart from the rest of his peers, by commanding policies that strengthened Florence’s politics.  Soon enough, Machiavelli found himself becoming Florence’s diplomat, and was assigned diplomatic missions, thanks to his principalities.  He ended up meeting royals, like King Louis XII of France, Pope Julius II, and the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I.  Machiavelli also met Cesare Borgia, the prince of the papal states and son of former Pope Alexander VI.  Borgia’s shrewd, corrupt, and cunning personality served as the inspiration for Machiavelli’s political novel The Prince.

In 1498, Machiavelli became the secretary of the Ten, which he held until the Republic fell in 1512.  He was sent on a couple of missions, including one for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian, and four other missions to France.  His adventures, together with his works on The Affairs of France and Germany, were filled with many far-reaching insights.

After the Medici family was restored, Machiavelli became one of the instruments of the downfall of his very own patron, Gonfaloniere Soderini.  Machiavelli was eventually captured, imprisoned, accused of conspiring against Sonderini, tortured, then exiled from Florence.  And even though he was pardoned, he no longer returned to public life and started writing books instead.  His attempt to return to politics, and the good favors bestowed upon him by the Medici family, caused Machiavelli to write his greatest work, The Prince.

In 1519, Pope Leo X commanded Machiavelli to write a report regarding the reform sweeping throughout Florence.  He was finally employed again as a diplomat and worked as a historiographer from 1521-1525.  After the French were defeated at Pavia in 1525, Italy lost hope in defeating the incoming forces of Emperor Charles V of England.  Machiavelli did his best to avert the invading army from Florence, redirecting them towards Rome instead.  The Medici family were exiled again in 1527, and the Republic was proclaimed.  However, Machiavelli felt bitterly disappointed about the incident, since he wasn’t allowed to take part in Florence’s movement for freedom – Not to mention that his health was already in steep decline.  He died on June 22, 1527.

Machiavelli’s works and writings were largely misunderstood and misrepresented.  He was vilified by most of the Florentine public, and his harshest critics were the Catholic church and clergy.  The first edition of his works weren’t even published until 1782.  Starting from that period, Machiavelli’s fame as the founder of political science started to increase.

Machiavelli’s Book – The Prince

The Prince was written by Machiavelli in the 1500s.  He composed this book to serve as a guide for becoming a good ruler.  The main objective of this book was evident from its first few pages.  The Prince was dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici, a member of the renowned Medici family and ruler of Florence

The Prince contains 26 chapters, all split into four parts: Chapters 1 to 11 discuss the various types of states and principalities, while Chapters 12 to 14 talk about the various armies and the right conduct of a prince if he becomes the military leader.  Chapter 15 to 23 are about the prince’s behavior and character, while the final two chapters discuss Italy’s current political situation.  The final part of the book contains a plea to the Medici family to supply the prince who is set to release Italy from humiliation.

The book’s first two chapters also talk about the book’s scope.  The Prince is highly concerned with Autocratic regimes, and not with Republican regimes.  The first chapter also defines the many kinds of princes and principalities.  And while doing so, the book builds an outline for the rest of the book.  The third chapter describes how one should keep composite principalities – Especially if they have been newly built or annexed from another power.  This will cause the prince to feel unfamiliar with the people that he rules.  It also introduces the main topics of the book – Including Warcraft, power politics, and the popular goodwill.

Machiavelli starts discussing about the theme of ability versus circumstances in the fourth chapter.  According to him, this determines a leader’s success or failure in ruling.  He suggests that no matter how many talents or skills the leader has, they’re not really important than the situation that he ends up in.  Machiavelli talks about this theme throughout the book, and also makes closing statements about free will and fortune on Chapter 25.  The huge contrast between luck, especially in the others’ favor, and ability is also elaborated on Chapters 6 and 7.

The last few sections of The Prince connect the book to a certain historical context – Namely Italy’s current state of chaos.  Machiavelli sets down his account and explains why the past rulers of Italy have all failed.  He finishes with a strong plea to the country’s future rules, and asserts that Lorenzo de Medici is the only person who can dutifully restore the country’s pride and honor.

Machiavelli’s Book – The Art of War

This next book was written between 1519 and 1520, and was published a year later.  This was Machiavelli’s only political and historical work printed when he was still living – Although he was assigned to become the official historian of Florence in 1520, and was also granted with small civil duties.

In contrary to The Prince, The Art of War isn’t all about anarchronism.  Its pages detail the right questions that war theorists continue to take a glimpse at until today.  That’s the reason why this book is still essential reading for students who study military history, strategy, and military theory.  Machiavelli himself considered The Art of War to be his greatest work.

What is a Machiavellian?

A Machiavellian is a person who practices the philosophy and follows conduct based on Machiavelli’s own beliefs.  This term is linked to deception and duplicity in both statecraft and management.  The European Association of Psychology and Law explains that a person with a Machiavellian personality manipulates and uses others, and takes advantage of their trust in their never-ending thirst to ensure success for themselves, and themselves alone.  A Machiavellian doesn’t see himself for whatever he may be, and is actually good at rationalizing his own behavior.

What is a Machiavellian Personality?

A person who has a Machiavellian personality easily controls and manipulates others in order to gain a profit for themselves.  According to The European Association of Psychology and Laws, a Machiavellian is someone who “thinks that the end justifies the means”, no matter how much others around them suffer.

You might think that a person with a Machiavellian personality seems really nefarious and evil – And, you’re probably right.  Those who carry this personality are usually cunning, scheming, ambitious and unscrupulous – Not to mention crafty, artful, sly, tricky, devious, and hard to work with.  A Machiavellian personality is a very strong personality, overbearing and power-hungry.  It’s a bit difficult to be around someone with this personality.  Even though owning these traits might not seem bad for some, having them all in accordance and to harmonize with one another produces difficult results.

Certain individuals can possess a Machiavellian trait.  In contrast to clinical personality traits, those with a Machiavellian personality can seem completely normal on the outside.  They might not create problems in work or at school.  In fact, there have been recent reports suggesting that a person with a Machiavellian personality can actually help other people.  Machiavellianism is connected to career satisfaction, and having an excellent leadership skill level.  Even if one considers the demographics, size of the company, tenure, and the number of hours worked daily, this association is still highly significant.  One more study has discovered that people with a Machiavellian personality were extroverted, self-confident, competitive, curious, and open to try new experiences.


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