Machiavellianism is the political philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli, expressed notably in his theoretical and historical writings. The word comes from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli, born in 1469, who wrote the books Il Principe (The Prince), and the Discourses on Livy, among other works. The words Machiavellian and Machiavellianism gained popularity in the late 16th century, due to the notoriety of Machiavelli's books.
In the field of personality psychology, "Machiavellianism" (or Mach scale) could also refer to the name given to a psychological trait conceptualized by psychologist Richard Christie, centered on manipulativeness, callousness, and an indifference to conventional morality.
After his exile from political life in 1512, Machiavelli took to a life of writing, which led to the publishing of his most famous work, The Prince. The book would become infamous for its recommendation for absolute rulers to be ready to act in unscrupulous ways, such as resorting to fraud and treachery, elimination of political opponents, and the usage of fear as a means of keeping public order. Machiavelli's view that acquiring a state and maintaining it requires evil means has been noted as the chief theme of the treatise. He has become infamous for this advice, so much so that the adjective Machiavellian would later on describe a type of politics that is "marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith".
While Machiavelli has become widely popular for his work on principalities, his other works, such as The Discourses on Livy, focused mainly on republican statecraft, and his recommendations for a well ordered republic. Machiavelli noted how free republics have power structures that are better than principalities. He also notes how advantageous a government by a republic could be as opposed to just a single ruler. However, Machiavelli's more controversial statements on politics can also be found even in his other works. For example, Machiavelli notes that sometimes extraordinary means, such as violence, can be used in reordering a country. In one area, he praises Romulus, who murdered his brother and co-ruler in order to have power by himself to found the city of Rome. In a few passages he sometimes explicitly acts as an advisor of tyrants as well.
Some scholars have even asserted that the goal of his ideal republic does not differ greatly from his principality, as both rely on rather ruthless measures for aggrandizement and empire.
In one passage of The Prince, Machiavelli subverts the advice given by Cicero to avoid duplicity and violence, by saying that the prince should "be the fox to avoid the snares, and a lion to overwhelm the wolves". It would become one of Machiavelli's most notable statements.
Because cruelty and deception play such important roles in his politics, it is not unusual for related issues--such as murder and betrayal--to rear their heads with regularity.
Machiavelli's own concept of virtue, which he calls "virtù", is original and is usually seen by scholars as different from the traditional viewpoints of other political philosophers. Virtú can consist of any quality at the moment that helps a ruler maintain his state, even being ready to engage in necessary evil when it is advantageous.
Machiavelli criticized and rejected the classical biblical and Christian thought as he viewed that it celebrated humility and otherworldly things, and thus it made the Italians of his day "weak and effeminate". While Machiavelli's own religious allegiance has been debated, it is assumed that he had a low regard of contemporary Christianity.
In the late 1530's, immediately following the publication of The Prince, Machiavelli's philosophy was seen as an immoral ideology that corrupted European politics. Reginald Pole read the treatise while he was in Italy, and on which he commented: "I found this type of book to be written by an enemy of the human race. It explains every means whereby religion, justice and any inclination toward virtue could be destroyed". Machiavelli's works were received similarly by other popular European authors, especially in Elizabethan England. The French lawyer Innocent Gentillet also levied heavy criticisms against Machiavelli in his 1576 book, Anti-Machiavel: A Discourse Upon the Means of Well Governing.
The English playwrights William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe incorporated their views into some of their works. Shakespeare's titular character, Richard III, refers to Machiavelli in Henry VI, Part III, as the "murderous Machiavel". In The Jew of Malta, "Machevil" is a ghostly caricature of Machiavelli, who brags how much he was right about power, then narrates the play to the audience. Marlowe's last play, The Massacre at Paris (1593) depicts the Duke of Guise and Catherine de' Medici both as Machiavellian plotters, bent on evil from the start.
The Anti-Machiavel is an 18th-century essay by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia and patron of Voltaire, rebutting The Prince. It was first published in September 1740, a few months after Frederick became king.
Machiavellianism is also the name that social and personality psychologists have given to a psychological scale that measures a person's tendency to be unemotional, lacking in concern for conventional morality and more inclined to engage in interpersonal manipulation.
In the 1960s, Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis wanted to study those who manipulated others, and developed a test using a selection of statements, including a few truncated sentences from Machiavelli's works as test items, naming the construct "Machiavellianism". They wanted to assess whether of not those who were in agreement with the statements would behave differently than others who disagreed. Their Mach IV test, a 20-question, Likert-scale personality survey, became the standard self-assessment tool of the Machiavellianism construct. Using their scale, Christie and Geis conducted multiple experimental tests that showed that the interpersonal strategies and behavior of "High Machs" and "Low Machs" differ. People scoring high on the scale (High Machs) tend to endorse manipulative statements, and behave accordingly.
Their basic results have been widely replicated. Measured on the Mach - IV scale, males score, on average, slightly higher on Machiavellianism than females. A recent behavioral genetics study noted that Machiavellianism has both significantly genetic and environmental influences. There has also been extensive research on Machiavellianism in young children and adolescents, via a measure dubbed the "Kiddie Mach" test.
A 1992 review described the motivation of those high on the Machiavellianism scale as related to cold selfishness and pure instrumentality, and those high on the trait were assumed to pursue their motives (e.g. sex, achievement, sociality) in duplicitous ways. More recent research on the motivations of high Machs compared to low Machs found that they gave high priority to money, power, and competition and relatively low priority to community building, self-love, and family commitment. High Machs admitted to focusing on unmitigated achievement and winning at any cost.
Due to their skill at interpersonal manipulation, there has often been an assumption that high Machs possess superior intelligence, or ability to understand other people in social situations. However, some research has established that Machiavellianism is unrelated to IQ. Recently, new research gives support to a contrary viewpoint.
Furthermore, studies on emotional intelligence have found that high Machiavellianism is usually associated with low emotional intelligence as assessed by both performance and questionnaire measures. Both emotional empathy and emotion recognition have been shown to have negative correlations with Machiavellianism. Additionally, research has shown that Machiavellianism is unrelated to a more advanced theory of mind, that is, the ability to anticipate what others are thinking in social situations. If high Machs actually are skilled at manipulating others, this appears to be unrelated to any special cognitive abilities as such, and may simply be due to a greater willingness to engage in manipulation.
Machiavellianism is one of the three personality traits referred to as the dark triad, along with narcissism and psychopathy. Some psychologists consider Machiavellianism to be essentially a subclinical form of psychopathy, as they both share manipulative tendencies and cold callousness as their primary attributes. Recent research suggests that while Machiavellianism and psychopathy overlap heavily, they are distinct personality constructs. Psychopathy differs from Machiavellianism mainly in impulsivity, a lack of long term planning and self control.
Machiavellianism has been found to be negatively correlated with Agreeableness (r = -0.47) and Conscientiousness (r = -0.34), two dimensions of the Big Five personality model (NEO-PI-R). However, Machiavellianism correlates more highly with the Honesty-humility dimension of the six-factor HEXACO model than with any of the Big Five dimensions. Machiavellianism has also been located within the interpersonal circumplex, which consists of the two independent dimensions of agency and communion. Agency refers to motivation to succeed and to individuate the self, whereas communion refers to motivation to merge with others and to support group interests. Machiavellianism lies in the quadrant of the circumplex defined by high agency and low communion. Machiavellianism has been found to lie diagonally opposite from a circumplex construct called self-construal, a tendency to prefer communion over agency. This suggests that people high in Machiavellianism do not simply wish to achieve, they wish to do so at the expense of (or at least without regard to) others.
In 2002, the Machiavellianism scale of Christie and Geis was applied by behavioral game theorists Anna Gunnthorsdottir, Kevin McCabe and Vernon L. Smith in their search for explanations for the spread of observed behavior in experimental games, in particular individual choices which do not correspond to assumptions of material self-interest captured by the standard Nash equilibrium prediction. It was found that in a trust game, those with high MACH-IV scores tended to follow homo economicus' equilibrium strategies while those with low MACH-IV scores tended to deviate from the equilibrium, and instead made choices that reflected widely accepted moral standards and social preferences.
Although there have been myriad proposed factor structures, two dimensions emerge most consistently within factor-analytic research - differentiating Machiavellian views from behaviors. Although the Mach-IV scale is unable to reliably capture the two dimensions, a 10-item subset of the scale known as the Two-Dimensional Mach-IV (TDM-V), reproduces the views and tactics dimensions across countries, genders, sample types, and scale category length. The "Views" dimension appears to capture the neurotic, narcissistic, pessimistic, and distrustful aspects of Machiavellianism, while the "Tactics" component captures the more unconscientious, self-serving, and deceitful behavioural aspects.
Machiavellianism is also studied by organizational psychologists, especially those whom study manipulative behaviors in workplace settings. Workplace behaviors associated with this concept include flattery, coercion, and workplace bullying.