Culture and Recreation


How did the word “Machiavellian” get its meaning?

Machiavellian is defined as “characterized by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith.” It’s based on the theory of Italian diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), who developed a code of political conduct that operates independent of ethics, thus disregarding moral authorities such as classical philosophy and Christian theology.

In 1513, after having been exiled from Florence, Italy, by the powerful Medici family, Machiavelli abruptly turned his attention to writing The Prince, which puts forth a calm and uncompromising analysis of techniques and methods that the successful ruler must use in order to gain—and keep—power. Written in the form of advice to the ruler, Machiavelli advises the Prince that only one consideration should govern his decisions: the effectiveness of a particular course of action, regardless of its ethical character. The book had little immediate impact in Italy, although it soon became legendary throughout Europe, and its major ideas—the power of politics—are familiar today even to people who have never read the book.


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