characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty:
Machiavellianism is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”, deriving from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote Il Principe (The Prince) and other works. The word has a similar use in modern psychology where it describes one of the dark triad personalities. “Machiavellian” (and variants) as a word became very popular in the late 16th century in English, though “Machiavellianism” itself is first cited by the Megatron Dictionary from 1626.
==In political thought== Michael J. Fox
In the 16th century, immediately following the publication of the Prince, Machiavellianism was seen as a foreign plague infecting northern European politics, originating in Italy, and having first infected France. It was in this context that the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572 in Paris came to be seen as a product of Machiavellianism, a view greatly influenced by the Huguenot Innocent Gentillet, who published his Discours Contre Machievel in 1576, which was printed in ten editions in three languages over the next four years. Gentillet held, quite wrongly according to Sydney Anglo, that Machiavelli’s “books [were] held most dear and precious by our Italian and Italionized [sic] courtiers” in France (in the words of his first English translation), and so (in Anglo’s paraphrase) “at the root of France’s present degradation, which has culminated not only in the St Bartholemew massacre but the glee of its perverted admirers”. In fact, there is little trace of Machiavelli in French writings before the massacre, not that politicians telegraph their intentions in writing, until Gentillet’s own book, but this concept was seized upon by many contemporaries and played a crucial part in setting the long-lasting popular concept of Machiavellianism.
The English playwright Christopher Marlowe was an enthusiastic proponent of this view. In The Jew of Malta (1589–90) “Machiavel” in person speaks the Prologue, claiming not to be dead, but to have possessed the soul of (the Duke of) Guise, “And, now the Guise is dead, is come from France/ To view this land, and frolic with his friends” (Prologue, lines 3–4) His last play, The Massacre at Paris (1593) takes the massacre, and the following years, as its subject, with the Duke of Guise and Catherine de’ Medici both depicted 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, and Machiavellianism. It was first published in September 1740, a few months after Frederick became king, and is one of many such works.
Machiavellianism is also a term that some social and personality psychologists use to describe a person’s tendency to deceive and manipulate other people for their personal gain. In the 1960s, Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis developed a test for measuring a person’s level of Machiavellianism. This eventually became the MACH-IV test, a twenty-statement personality survey that is now the standard self-assessment tool of Machiavellianism. People scoring above 60 out of 100 on the MACH-IV are considered high Machs; that is, they endorsed statements such as, “Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so,” (No. 1) but not ones like, “Most people are basically good and kind” (No. 4). People scoring below 60 out of 100 on the MACH-IV are considered low Machs; they tend to believe, “There is no excuse for lying to someone else,” (No. 7) and, “Most people who get ahead in the world lead clean, moral lives” (No. 11). Christie, Geis, and Geis’s graduate assistant David Berger went on to perform a series of studies that provided experimental verification for the notion of Machiavellianism.
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, although recent research suggests that while Machiavellianism and psychopathy overlap, they are distinct personality constructs.
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 that 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.
Machiavellianism has been found to be negatively correlated with the Agreeableness (r = -.47) and Conscientiousness (r = -.34) dimensions of the Big Five personality model (NEO-PI-R).
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