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Is That Really Machiavellianism???

February 8, 2011

As I read through some of the blogs about Machiavellianism in examples such as Lady Gaga and Perez Hilton, I couldn’t help but think whether true Machiavellianism relates to these celebrities, or if the bloggers are just trying to get creative by coming up with witty associations.

 I do not mean to criticize these posts, because I think they were very well done, but I cannot help but wonder if you can really believe something like Perez Hilton’s “bullying by writing crude comments” can fall under the category of “nefarious or villainous means”?  Does dressing like a “freak” really qualify Lady Gaga as taking advantage of “the ends justify the means” according to Machiavelli?  I do not believe these are fair comparisons and here is why:

  1. Machiavelli’s “The Prince” is a guide for ruling a state, so anything not relating to the field of politics does not seem to fit into Machiavellianism.   Yes, of course you can believe and act in principles such as “ends justify the means” and not be a politician (looking for power), but Machiavelli was speaking directly about governing.
  2. Machiavelli’s “means” are much more cruel than some of us are interpreting.  This man is talking about murdering people if the killing is necessary for his state, not something as minimal as blogging about celebrity gossip (obviously he has not really heard about blogging yet in the 1500s, but if it were around, can you actually imagine him saying “The first objective these bloggers have pursued has been to destroy the reputation of the celebrities in order to build up that of their own forces”)?
  3. Machiavelli’s “ends” are much more substantial than something such as becoming famous.  He is talking about trying to successfully rule and discipline a considerable number of people!  Becoming a singer is “child’s play” to him, and would not be an “end” that would be bothered with by Machiavelli (even though I am sure that a lot of Lady Gaga fans would vote her for president in the upcoming 2012 election over any of the other possible candidates).

 I think the bloggers were trying too hard to find someone obscure, and that these characters do not truly represent Machiavellianism.  They were trying to get “cute” with their comparisons and it all just seems a little too exaggerated for me.  

I am not going to lie, I really haven’t read too much else written by Machiavelli besides “The Prince” so there is a possibility that he could direct his other teachings towards trying to gain power by gossiping news about Miley Cyrus’s bong hit or by dressing up like a banana to gain attention, but I think those teachings were from his works that were lost in translation. 

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc, 2008. 9-52. Print.

  1. Justin Kucera permalink
    February 8, 2011 5:08 PM

    I agree with you. Obviously Hilton and Gaga are no political leaders and have nowhere near the responsibility and accountibility that the intended audience of “The Prince” had but I’m going to try and shed light on the other side of this debate. Although I think it is going a bit to far to compare these celeberties to political theorists, I don’t blame people for making these modern day connections. While trying to learn and grasp concepts that are just taught to us, us human beings are always trying to make connections to help us better understand new ideas. We want to be educated and we truly want to grasp the idea of Machiavellism, so inherently we make connections to modern everyday people in order to connect with our peers and bring it to a level of debate that more common people can have an opinion about.

  2. apnash permalink
    February 8, 2011 6:16 PM

    I do actually believe that these celebrities, as empty as they are, are acting in a somewhat Machiavellian way because they are in a shameless pursuit of their own desires. Machiavelli stated in The Prince that it is man’s natural desire to seek power, so he wasn’t necessarily advocating seeking power, but pursuing your natural inclination. So if you agree that Perez Hilton and Lady Gaga believe that their natural inclination is to seek fame, you must agree that Machiavelli would advise them to use the best, and most hand-dirtying means to their ends.

  3. Hassan Zaarour permalink
    February 8, 2011 6:31 PM

    I must disagree with the idea that Machiavelli’s ideologies in “The Prince” are limited to politics. I believe that the field of politics encompasses much of human nature and therefore many of Machiavelli’s subscriptions for rulers can be applied by anybody. I agree, Perez Hilton and Lady Gaga are not the epitome of Machiavellian figures but many of their actions, such as demeaning others for their own means, are Machiavellian. Machiavelli’s “The Prince” cannot be limited to the field of politics; maybe it can describe workings within the field of power. A great pop culture example of applying Machiavelli outside politics is Tupac Shakur AKA Machiavelli; he believed that Machiavellian principles could be applied to his mindset/work and he could achieve more power.

    • timothyhall permalink
      February 8, 2011 7:57 PM

      I agree with Hassan Zaarour’s post, in that I think regardless of what discipline, era, or level of importance a theory comes from, what makes it timeless is the possibility of universal application, even when applied to Lady Gaga and Perez Hilton. Though neither works with the same amount of violence as Machiavellian rulers of old or are of the same level of importance as any head of state, their strategies for achieving wealth/fame/status/whatever it is they’re looking to achieve can still easily be described as Machiavellian, just on a smaller scale.

  4. Emily Slaga permalink
    February 9, 2011 11:32 PM

    Though they aren’t perfect descriptions of Machiavelli’s political, murdering, land-conquering Prince, I disagree with you saying that these celebrities can’t be seen as Machiavellians. Like Justin said, they are current, popular, relatable examples for most college kids. If you’re learning about a concept, closing your mind off to only see a Machiavellian as a political leader who is 100% verbatim how Machiavelli described him: being an actual leader of society, having an army of his own, etc, and taking it all very literally, I think you’re missing a huge part of learning. You turn your lessons into history lessons when, really, what benefits a student most is being able to apply concepts and theories to modern day, relatable subjects and draw comparisons. When you can do that, you not only help others understand concepts, but you prove that you understand the basics behind an idea such as Machiavellianism. I think timothy hall said it perfectly: they “can still easily be described as Machiavellian, just on a smaller scale”.

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