The Prince – handbook of political leaders
The year 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of a famous little book, The Prince, written by a European
Nobleman named Niccolo Machiavelli, written in 1513, but only published after his death, is one of the most famous and influential books on politics ever written. It has been given the name “Machiavellian”
because it advocates scheming, and deceit in the pursuit and maintenance of power.
In the book, Machiavelli advises the rising and ambitious ruler that the ‘dictates of power’ are the primary consideration in all policies and actions.
The mainstream view of Machiavelli can be summarized by the following description from Encyclopaedia Britannica’s entry on the man. “The first and most persistent view of Machiavelli is that of a teacher of evil… To maintain himself a prince must learn how not to be good and use or not use this knowledge ‘according to necessity’ from this standpoint Machiavelli can be interpreted as the founder of modern political science, a discipline based on the actual state of the world as opposed to how the world might be ….The amoral interpretation fastens on Machiavelli’s frequent resort to ‘necessity’ in order to excuse actions that might otherwise be condemned as immoral”
In the book Machiavelli presents a number of traits rulers should emulate as;
. Never show humility; it is more effective to show arrogance when dealing with others.
. Morality and ethics are for the weak; powerful people should feel free to lie, cheat and deceive whenever it suits their purpose.
. It is better to be feared than loved
. In order to be popular and secure in power, a prince need not be virtuous, only appear so.
The phrases “history is written by the victors” and “the end justifies the means” are attributed to him.
In the 1970’s psychologists published a study identifying a distinct personality type characterized by manipulation in relationships and cynicism about human nature. They administered a test containing statements such as: “Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so…
The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear….Anyone who completely trusts anyone else is asking for trouble”
Respondents who agreed with such statements got high scores and were called “High Machs” and were found to be prone to having a “Machiavellian” personality.
Commenting on the study, psychologist Harriet B. Braiker wrote: Machiavellian personalities
are committed to the proposition that a desired end justifies virtually any means. Machiavellianism is defined as a manipulative strategy of social interaction and personality style
that uses other people as tools for personal gain…High Machs influence or manipulate others
in predictable ways, using tactics that are exploitive, self-serving, and nearly always deceptive.
These high Machs also tend to constitute a distinctive type. They tend to be charming, confident, and glib; but they are also arrogant, calculating and cynical, prone to manipulate and exploit. High Machs also display a keen and opportunistic sense of timing and they appear to capitalise especially in situations that contain ambiguity regarding the rules” (Who’s Pulling your Strings? Harriet B.Braiker, Ph.D., pp.85-87)
An appropriate and timely analysis for our times, don’t you think?
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