“[T]he employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”. The word comes from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, born in 1469, who wrote Il Principe (The Prince), among other works. In modern psychology, he is one of the dark triad personalities, characterized by a duplicitous interpersonal style, a cynical disregard for morality and a focus on self-interest and personal gain. The pejorative term as it is used today is thus a misnomer, as it describes one who deceives and manipulates others for gain; whether the gain is personal or not is of no relevance, only that any actions taken are only important insofar as they affect the results. It fails to include some of the more moderating themes found in Machiavelli’s works and the name is now associated with the extreme viewpoint.
Machiavelli wasn’t the figure of corruption he is now taken to be, but a man who thought it was worth accepting a lesser evil to perpetuate a greater good. His skill, seen by those who disagreed with him, seemed almost demonic, which is how his name has become used now. He wasn’t particularly good at the office politics in city government, nor advancing himself within the ranks, but he did give good advice. Don MacDonald saw in the story of Machiavelli’s life the very vicissitudes he wrote about and debunks the common perception of the political philosopher.