Machiavellian-ism is not a topic you have felt much need to learn about, but that is only because you believe what you've been told about it. Don't believe the fake news that Machiavelli has been getting for five centuries. Machiavellian-ism doesn't have rules or commandments. It is a perspective, rather than a philosophy. It is a list of tactics rather than a strategy. It is relativism. What matters to you is all that matters. Machiavellianism says that all things in your life are relative to you. How you should behave in a situation depends totally on what you want to get out of that situation. The ends usually justify the means, and only you can say whether one method is better than another in a particular situation. Just don't mention any of this to your boss or your mentor. There is no reason to trouble their little minds with these big thoughts.
This web site is about modern Machiavellianism. It is an outgrowth of my charming and informative little book:
Machiavellianism for the 21st Century by (the ever humble) Midas Jones. (Available on Amazon)
“But,” I hear you thinking, “is Machiavellianism true or false? I don't want to believe in a false philosophy or doctrine or whatever!”
On Truth: It may seem like a contradiction, but a Modern Machiavellian should be more trustworthy and honest than the ordinary person. The Machiavellian realizes how valuable trust is and how fragile it is. If you lie to a person once - and are caught - then he or she will never trust you again. In most cases, the truth is best. As the great philosopher, Mark Twain, commented, “When in doubt, tell the truth.” On the other hand, our mentor, Machiavelli, observed that he had known many great and powerful men: kings, queens, popes, princes, generals, bishops, and so forth. He observed that all of them, at one time or another, lied, cheated, stole, or murdered to achieve success. If you want to be successful, he commented, then you must be prepared to lie, cheat, or steal to get what you want or keep what you've got. Otherwise, you may have to give up your dreams. (Five centuries ago, Machiavelli was much more casual about murder than we are today. In our 21st century version of Machiavellianism, we exclude murder as an acceptable way of getting what you want. Sorry if that is disappointing to you.)
Is it better to lose honestly or win by cheating? How would you answer that question if asked by your child? The old saying in pro-sports, I have heard, is “If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying!” Many of our most intense competitors cheat as a way of doing business. Large corporations (not all of them but most, I think) routinely use accounting flummery, deceptive marketing, bribery (both campaign contributions and outright bribes) to make the sale or get the contract. Professional athletes use banned substances all the time. In the highly competitive business of politics, the lie is just a way of doing business.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan claimed he had filmed the atrocities of the Nazi death camps while serving as a US Army Signal Corps photographer in Europe. Reagan never left America during World War Two.
Now is the best time to buy a house.
I did not sleep with that woman. ~ President Clinton
I am not a crook. ~ President Nixon
Too bad ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation. ~ Henry Kissinger
Cigarette smoking is no more addictive than coffee, tea, or Twinkies, ~ the tobacco industry.
History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there. ~ George Santayana
I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche.
Possession of the capacity to lie among non-humans has been asserted during language studies. In one instance, a gorilla (Koko), when asked who tore a sink from the wall, pointed to one of her handlers and then laughed.
Deceptive body language, such as feints that mislead as to the intended direction of attack or flight, is observed in many species. A mother bird deceives when she pretends to have a broken wing to divert the attention of a perceived predator, including unwitting humans, from the eggs in her nest, as she draws the predator away from the location of the nest.
Priests lie about sleeping with parishioners and altar boys.
Students lie to professors about why their homework is not ready.
Citizens lie to policemen, judges and juries about why they are speeding.
Judges who speed on their way to work convict citizens for speeding.
Lawyers lie to judges and juries about their client's innocence.
Corporations lie incessantly to their customers, stockholders, and government officials.
The public and private dialogs are saturated with falsehoods and misinformation. Think about it.
So, What Is It?
To me, the heart of Machiavellianism is defined by these concepts:
Relativism - Machiavelli believed that every person and every situation was unique. While some broad principles can be applied to many situations, one must always consider the unique personalities involved and the unique circumstances of time and place. Nothing is true for all people in every place all of the time. Everything is relative to everything else.
Individualism - Machiavelli wrote The Prince to one man - the Prince of Florence. He advised that man how best to govern his principality. He would have, I believe, given different advice to another ruler in another time and place. He would surely have given different advice to the King of France or to the Pope than he gave to the Prince of Florence. Goals, to Machiavelli, are self-determined, not universal. He would have given different advice to a blacksmith or a priest. There are no universal rules that apply to all humans, except for a few having to do with continuous breathing and eating.
Subjectivism - I think the purpose of life is this and you think the purpose of life is that. I think love is this and you think love is that. I think humanity originated in this way and you think it originated that way. We all live in our own reality. I think my writing is brilliant, while others (all fools!), may think it is crap. We can agree on some things, but not on all things. The point is not to compel all others to agree with you about everything - which is impossible - but to pursue your own goals as you define them.
For example, Machiavelli argued that the common people want to freedom, security, and autonomy while the wealthy and powerful want to oppress the common people and deprive them of freedom, security, and autonomy. What you believe is based on who you are: your genetics, your family, your country, your culture, your religion, your social class, and your experiences.
Rational Thought - Machiavelli was a keen student of human nature. When he described a thing, he told us what he had seen, heard, and concluded. He did not tell us what the Church taught about human nature, what the Bible said, or what Aristotle said. He did not quote St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine. For example, he pointed out - without mentioning the Ten Commandments - that lying is universally used by all human beings and especially by powerful and successful human beings to achieve their goals. When one chooses to lie, he observed, it is best to lie skillfully. Is this not rational?
The Ends Usually Justify the Means - Machiavelli was a Christian, but he argued that the image of the Christian warrior or Crusader was better for Florence than the image of a passive Christian saint praying for salvation. He had observed that swords won more battles than prayers, and he wanted Italy’s churches to build martial and manly values in Italian men, not make them into wimpy martyrs who would die for God - but not fight for Italy. First, think of your goal (like a city of strong, trained men who would fight when called upon). Then, figure out a plan to accomplish your goal (the Church should emphasize the image of the strong, male serving God by fighting for his city).
Promoting Better Living Through Machiavellianism