How to Understand Machiavellianism

How to Understand Machiavellianism

Machiavellianism is a political theory and one of the dark triad of personality traits, in psychology, based on the teachings of Niccolo Machiavelli.


1. Machiavellian or Machiavellianism is defined as “the use of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct.” Remember this; a Machiavellian should live by it as a life quote.

2. The best place to start is The prince, Machiavelli’s seminal work, and where the idea of Machiavellianism derives.

3. Investigate both Machiavelli and the times. Understand that the context in which Machiavellianism arose is critical, and that Machiavelli lived in Florence during the reign of the Medici family and was exiled by them.

4. Some consider Machiavelli to be a villainous advisor who would encourage rulers to use torture and other methods to maintain power. Read Prince twice, once as if it were your advisor and you were the king.

5. Others believe the prince is a clever satire because it is written in Italian rather than Latin. Read the Prince a second time, this time as satire, and consider which is more important, advice or satire.

6. Machiavellianism was viewed as a foreign virus infecting English politics, having originated in Italy and infected France. In this context, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris in 1572 came to be viewed as a product of Machiavellianism, a viewpoint heavily influenced by the Huguenots. Learn about the Huguenots and France, and how the French monarchy used machiavellian tactics to deal with the Huguenots.

7. Machiavellianism is a term coined by some social and personality psychologists to describe a person’s proclivity to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain. Remember that it can also mean this, despite the fact that it sounds very similar to the original.

8. In the 1960s, Richard Christie and Florence L Geis developed a test for measuring a person’s level of Machiavellianism. The test is called the Mach-IV test and consists of twenty questions, used to determine one’s Machiavellian rating. Go here and have a look:

9. Those scoring above 60 out of a 100 are high Mach’s, who endorse statements like, you should only tell the truth if it is in your own interest.

10. Machiavellianism, along with narcissism and psychopathy, is one of the three personality traits known as the dark triad; some even argue that it is a sub-clinical form of psychopathy. Read up on the Psychology of Machiavellianism to get a sense of what Mach’s mind was like.

11. Learn about modern Machiavellians and their works. Than Shwe is a Burmese general, Wen Jiabao is a Chinese premier, and Lord Mandelson is a British politician. It is worth noting that all three have power without being subject to the people. Than Shwe is a general who wields power through force, Wen Jiabo is the leader of a one-party state, and Mandy is a member of the House of Lords, an unelected position of power in government.

12. Read about old Machiavellians like Pol Pot-Cambodian dictator, Stalin-Russian former General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Chairman Mao-First communist leader of China.

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