#6 The meaning of “Machiavellism”

To describe someone as Machiavellic is in no way a compliment! Machiavellism is a term that originates from the Renaissance era and has since been used extensively in a negative way, especially in politics.

Below are some interesting elements about the history of the word and its author :

  • Machiavelism according to the online dictionary Meriam-Webster is the political theory of Niccolò Machiavelli.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli himself was an Italian writer, diplomat, and politician of the Renaissance era.
  • The theory is of view that politics is amoral and any means however unscrupulous can justifiably be used in achieving political power.
  • Nicolo Machiavelli has had a lot of influence in political thinking and some consider him the father of modern political science.
  • The most notable work of Nicolo Machiavelli “the prince” (written in the 1500’s) is highly controversial, some even consider it evil.
  • “The prince” seems to endorse immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. The writer himself seems to be of opinion that it is okay to deceive, manipulate and kill the innocents, friends and enemies alike if it helps secure power.
  • At its core, Machiavelism is about deception, manipulation, and self-survival. One extract is as follows “Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”

In the present, the term seems to have found firm footing in psychology as well. Machiavellism made its entry in psychology in the 1970’s when two psychologists (Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis) developed what they called “the Machiavellianism Scale”. The test, later on, became known as the Mach-IV test. Those that score high on the text are likely to believe that in order to achieve success, one must be deceptive. They are likely to prioritize power over love and connection, they don’t believe that humankind is by nature good. They are unlikely to trust people, a behavior they might often see as naive.

A study published in 2013, found that those who identified strongly with Machiavellism were also very likely to suffer from depression.

Machiavellism also became one of the three personality traits to define Dark Triad and one of the four personality traits to define Dark Tetrad. A dark triad is an individual who scores high on Machiavellism, psychopathy, and narcissism. Dark tetrad takes the concept one step further and adds sadism to it. One advice: stay away from a dark triad or a dark tetrad, they only bring trouble.

And just like that, a politician, through his actions and his book earned one of the most notorious eponyms in history.




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