WHERE DOES ‘ MACHIAVELLIAN’ COME FROM?
Often summed up as ‘the end justifies the means’, Machiavellianism has come to refer to dishonest, unscrupulous and even immoral political deeds carried out for expediency. History is replete with figures who fit the description, but the man the term is named after is not necessarily one of them.
Niccolo Machiavelli, a former secretary and diplomat of the Florentine Republic, wrote The Prince in 1513. In this political treatise, he described a ‘new prince’ as someone who was cunning, calculating, deceiving, willing to kill … and effective. The Prince condones “expediency in preference to morality” and, when published in 1532 (after Machiavelli’s death) it sparked outrage across Europe. As a result, Machiavelli’s name became the ultimate pejorative for a conniving politician.
Yet many say Machiavelli’s meaning was more complex than his reputation suggests. The debate continues; the name has stuck.
PRINCE ALARMING Statues like this one do little to help Machiavelli’s image