The Manifestation of Machiavellianism:
There are people who demonstrate incredibly manipulative tendencies from a young age. Be it a pronounced desire to manipulate, a natural aptitude to manipulate, or in exceptional cases, the manifestation of both qualities simultaneously. We will characterise individuals who show both or either behaviour as “naturals.” The naturals fall into what I have distinguished as two distinct groups: “The Kings” and “The Generals.” The remainder of the Machiavellian population are known as “The Advisers.” They learn to become Machiavellian early on in life due to traumatic or otherwise life-changing events, but for all intent and purpose before the inception of said event were not naturally predisposed to Machiavellian thinking. These people are socialised Machiavellians, the Machiavellians of struggle and necessity, and it is they who make up the final archetype which completes the trifecta.
Like most things learned in childhood and to a slightly lesser extent, adolescence, there is a certain intuitive competence acquired from one’s early life experiences. With all the impressionableness and raw aptitude that is embodied in the intelligence of youth the ferocity of necessity clashes with trial and error’s reactive and adaptive curiosity to give rise to the birth of potential greatness: Machiavellian prowess. This is a universal premise which applies to all crafts, hobbies and arts. The younger the person, the more pronounced the effect of their exposure to an idea; for the young are infinitely more malleable than the old and unlike the old, they need not de-program and then reprogram themselves: they are a clean slate. Machiavellianism is in that respect, by no means different from any other field of study or influence. The younger an individual adopts Machiavellianism as their personal philosophy and likewise practices it as their mode of operation, the more likely one is to proficiently exercise the power of the art.
The development of Machiavellianism often coincides with the development or redevelopment of “the self.” In childhood, adolescence and early adulthood this process is rather simply “the development of the self.” For older folks the same formation (or replacement of) personality is preceded by de-programming (unlearning previously learned behaviours) in favour of learning what are deemed more efficient ones. This is a practice known more vaguely as metaprogramming, a process where one undergoes cognitive rewiring via psychological reconditioning. There are a number of ways this can be achieved, but that is a whole other topic unto itself reserved for another time.
The framework which begins to take hold in the mind of someone in the process of becoming Machiavellian causes them to undergo a personality shift. This shift occurs as part of the internalisation of a new and rapidly evolving mental schema. And so it follows that it is upon the back of an internalised Machiavellian framework that social skills such as profoundly accurate analysis and the charm of persuasion manifest as reflexive and natural-seeming proficiencies. In a Machiavellian they are the product of something bigger, rather than skills learned in and of themselves for the sake of themselves. For the competent Machiavellian, they are merely symptomatic exemplifications of their Machiavellian aptitude having attained a certain degree of refinement.
Of course what I’m describing here is the birth of the manipulative mind in all its natural form. A natural Machiavellian in the truest sense of the word was always manipulative, however typically it is with both age and experience that the sophistry of such devices becomes more complex, more nuanced, more effective. Machiavellians are you see, in a perverse sense, architects of the mind. Manipulation is their art and they enjoy their craft, refining the craft and becoming masters within their own right. For the Machiavellians who are self-aware, not only is the development of manipulatory prowess a lifestyle, but likewise it is a hobby.
Now not everybody is what can be considered “a natural Machiavellian.” Everybody is, to some extent, manipulative and capable of some small-scale manipulation (a guilt trip here, a ploy for sympathy there etc) however “to be manipulative” is not “to be Machiavellian” per se. Under that criteria, each and every human is Machiavellian, which is in the context of what is being referred to here, a disingenuous and inaccurate claim. The average person’s manipulations are manifestations of innate desire, primitive, unrefined, predictable. They do not purposely set out to scheme, deceive and ascertain power, they simply engage in manipulatory devices now and again as a matter of course, out of instinct. A Machiavellian on the other hand can in partial characterisation be described as someone who is consciously manipulative. A Machiavellian enjoys manipulating, the entire construction of their lives is based around the philosophy of effectual manipulation. In the case of socially learned Machiavellianism this is what is referred to by the academic world as a “maladaptive coping mechanism.” Essentially, people become manipulative and develop cunning because they have to in order to defend themselves from some form of deprivation, be it material or psychological.
“The Advisor” – The Socialised Machiavellian:
Advisers are Machiavellians who are more defensive and indirect rather than aggressive or violent in their schemes. Advisers tend to use aggressive gambits as defensive measures, typically when a king or general is calling the bluff of the advisor having noted in their analysis of the advisor a lack of psychopathy. In essence, one could say the natural Machiavellians fitness test the socialised ones to see what mettle is behind all those well-placed words, well met glances and astute deductions.
“The Advisor” Machiavellian archetype is characterised by those such as myself and the infamous Robert Greene. The advisor is not a coloniser of minds, but rather, a complementer of minds. Advisers are sought out for their strategic cunning, understanding of power, and keen psychological insights. They do not lead and they do not conquer, they attract and infect for self-preservation, for profit and for self-gain. One could say that in the absence of loyalty “The Advisor” is a Machiavellian mercenary, a strategist for sale. Invaluable as they are this is why they are often in the employ of those with power, the naturals, the kings and the generals; for it is better to have an advisor work for you rather than your enemy. Likewise being learned, having consciously practised and read up on the realm of Machiavellianism, an advisor’s ability to articulate subtextual nuance is typically greater than that of the natural.
Kings and generals must form substantive friendships with advisers to secure their loyalty and ensure that the advisor does not defect or disappear. Advisors are high value assets that provide continuous value to kings and generals. If a friendship can blossom between any two such Machiavellians, “The Advisor” becomes more than a mental mercenary but instead a trusted advisor. They are usually granted a lofty position, considered family, and closely protected, partially out of affinity/respect and partially due to the secrets that they hold. Advisers are the most passive of the Machiavellians due to their lack of direct aggression and absence in actually executing the elaborately crafted strategies they devise. Whilst king’s and advisers keep their hands clean, it is normally the pawns and generals who dirty their hands.
The advisor is not a natural Machiavellian, the advisor is a self-taught product of their environment initially self-motivated by pain and powerlessness. Whilst personal turmoil may cause the amplification and refinement of such Machiavellian tendency within naturals, in the case of “The Advisor” it is fundamentally responsible for the emergence of such behaviour to begin with.
Where Machiavellianism is not natural, but rather, socialised: the laws of individualised necessity clash with the trial and error of pragmatism to form a new framework for the basis of personality. You see, although Machiavellianism never completely defines the personality in matters of explicit preference, it does largely govern perception and behavioural pattern. Machiavellianism rather crudely dominates one’s perception to fixate heavily on value exchange, eliciting an incredible awareness of one’s self-interest whilst simultaneously acting as an antenna toward the varying interests of others. When you understand what makes people tick, you can manipulate them. When you understand what makes yourself tick, you know how you can be manipulated. Machiavellianism is both sword and shield, it can be a reflexively improvised defence, or the core mechanism in devising elaborate and meticulously crafted schemes. There is not a single war nor a single battle that can escape the power of Machiavellianism, for Machiavellianism is omnipresent.
As the majority of people (non-Machiavellians) are largely unaware of much of the underlying subtextual dynamics present around them, any heightened power of observation is deemed threatening in and of itself despite its inherently passive nature. You may have never threatened another’s interests, but if that other is aware of your powers of observation they are hard pressed to trust you; for your skill can expose their vulnerabilities and their awareness for such potential elicits both fear and paranoia. It is in light of this that the Machiavellian learns quickly to downplay, disguise and conceal not just their power plays, but likewise their passive capacity to analyse. It is for this reason that the ability to appear unintelligent is a popular one. It is a mask that budding Machiavellians learn to adopt quite quickly as a device unto itself, being a most effectual form of concealment. Highly-trained powers of deduction quickly arouse suspicion in the majority of the population, eliciting fear, and thus unless it is your intent to instil fear, such power must operate invisibly rather than openly. To employ a metaphor, much like the modern CCTV camera becomes more increasingly innocuous, smaller in size with the lens concealed within a dome, your mind’s eye must likewise conceal its lens, operating hidden in plain sight.
In the transitionary phase of development, a budding Machiavellian is coming to grips with these realities. They are experimenting with and refining methodologies which strengthen their capacity to psychoanalyse and hold social influence whilst disregarding methodologies which do not lend themselves to this endeavour. Effectively the growing Machiavellian is fine-tuning their sensitivity to the minds around them, assessing said mind’s strengths and weaknesses, whilst experimenting with how to best present themselves to such minds. As mentioned in the paragraph prior, stealth is key. A non-violent Machiavellian must first be deemed non-threatening in the minds of others before escalating to cooption. So it follows that as a Machiavellian, regardless of the archetype you fit, it is imperative to be seen as innocuous until you can gain enough influence to be favoured or even worshipped.
Stages of Influence:
You will never be worshipped straight away by another without immense preselection, eg: fame. In the absence of such external forces you will go through numerous stages of favour. There are two stages which grant you no power or favour with an individual; they are the stages of “rejection” and “indifference.” There are then three stages which follow on from that which bestow you with increasing levels of influence upon an individual.
A stranger, a person who does not know of you, is for the most part, indifferent. People who know you that behave as if they are indifferent or claim to be indifferent are not actually indifferent; they have in actual fact rejected you. The indifference stage is populated exclusively by strangers. There is little difference between rejection and indifference if rejection is not accompanied by penalty or punishment other than the rejection in and of itself. Where rejection causes another to designate you as a threat and to seek to undermine you, they likewise become your threat. No war is one-sided, just because you have not declared war it does not mean you are not at war. The rejection stage is populated by your enemies, detractors and haters.
Next there is acceptance, acceptance is an absence of negative sentiment or threat designation, characterised best as genuine civil co-operation. At the acceptance stage your existence is acknowledged, you do not set any alarms off, but you likewise hold little influence. The acceptance stage is populated by colleagues and acquaintances who you have neither gone to war with, or won the favour of.
Beyond acceptance we reach cooption. Cooption is when one deems you favourably to the extent that they will engage in non-consequential (small) personal sacrifices, grant you small favours and show a beyond “familiar” level of respect and admiration. The cooption stage is populated by casual friends, people who “think that guy is alright” and drinking partners.
Finally, we reach the stage of worshipper: a worshipper may not literally worship you in the “I’m your biggest fan!” kind of way but they are individuals who see you as an incredibly important person. They will be willing to make large sacrifices, lie for you, protect you, and are largely susceptible to your wants and needs. The worshipper stage is populated by dear friends, close family members and passionate lovers.
So how is one to traverse the sequence of stages, from stranger to worshipper without suffering needless rejection and social failure? By mirroring or at least complementing people well enough for them to feel happy and at ease when you’re around of course. Dale Carnegie’s “How To Make Friends & Influence People seems relevant at this point. When people are comfortable with you, you give yourself more room to manoeuvre non-aggressively by merit of people being more likely to consent to your plans. Likewise personal boundaries widen and you get to practice your Machiavellianism with a larger degree of freedom, be it that people are more forgiving of a social faux-pas when it is committed by somebody that they like.
For more information on the topic of becoming Machiavellian, refer to this article.
The King – An Untamed Psychopath:
The king has the capacity to perform and execute Machiavellian strategy and plans. They have an intrinsic desire to secure power at all costs and impose their will onto others, but often they lack finesse, patience, deep understanding of the subtleties of manipulatory subtext and struggle without council to put any exceptional plans together. Instead they oft opt to delegate tasks to their worshippers and pawns, watching how the dominoes fall with limited success. You see by nature of their ego, the king has something of a penchant for wasting time by playing with people’s feelings and relationships rather than simply doing what needs to be done to achieve an objective. Effectively, fucking with people is something “The King” does not just as a matter of outcome (causing people to suffer as a symptom of collateral damage,) but the king actually indulges in fucking with people purely for the sake of messing with them. Kings can be characterised as having a sadistic disposition, for schadenfreude feeds into their already gargantuan egos. From this it becomes clear just how dominant the ego is within “The King” archetype and how sadism acts as a mechanism of narcissistic supply for maintaining their self-majesty.
“The King” archetype is aggressive and has an intrinsic passion for controlling others whilst being subject to zero or minimal controls himself. The king has the will, the desire and the capacity to execute plans, and he is capable of devising strategies himself. However due to his limited understanding of people, emotion and a lack of psychological creativity, his plans oft fall short in majesty and efficiency versus the strategy of the “The Advisor” or “The General.” Kings are, effectively, natural-born leaders with a lust for power. They make great shows of strength but are oft caught up in their own perceived self-importance and thus their analytical abilities are inhibited by the ego in matters of defence. The king like all regal stereotypes is obsessed with his own majesty. His ego makes him easy to undermine and provoke, for he validates accusations which are an affront to him by acknowledging them. Where “The King” should mindfully overlook or disregard a provocative ploy for attention, he impulsively indulges in lèse-majesté.
Kings are simply put, to the detriment of their cunning, strategically stupid and overcome by ego when one dares to question, mock or interrogate them. Due to the dominance of the kings ego and their inability to control their ego and stop it from attacking wildly in reaction, “the king” operates erratically when the counsel of an advisor is not available. Teamed with an advisor, “The King” is a force to be reckoned with, alone however they are effective only against the common sheeple, being at a stalemate with other kings and outmanoeuvred by generals.
The General – Master Machiavellian:
A general dirties his hands where necessary, whilst in due accord appearing to be moral as and when required. Unlike “The King” who is afraid to dirty his hands, his ego too grandiose and self-important to demean himself to “the tasks of servants,” a general will do what needs to be done in order to achieve the objective at hand. No matter how undesirable or distasteful such an action may be, a general knows that in matters of necessity he is not above the game: he must comply with what effective strategy dictates. A general knows when he can trust somebody enough with a task to delegate it to them based on a fair assessment of their expertise and reliability, as well as gauge when something is sensitive enough in nature to require he dirty his own hands.
Generals have the same capacity to execute that “The King” has, as well as the rationalist astuteness of “The Advisor,” for general’s are the culmination of both personified within a single individual. Generals are at the very epitome of Machiavellian ability and tend to occupy the apexes of power (think Vladimir Putin.) The majority of Machiavellians tend to be neurotic king archetypes or passive advisers. It is rare you find a general, a Machiavellian who possesses the clear lucidity of the advisor as well as the ability to execute characteristic of the king.
Although generals do not need advisers, they often seek alternative perspectives and constructive debate for planning and refining strategy which requires meticulous execution and redundant contingency. The General is what follows as the natural progression of a king who has become aware of his fallibilities and become successful in mitigating them. A king lacks the training, self-control, experience and expertise of a general. A general is a king who has learned to shed his ego in order to deploy effective strategies. Unlike the king who indulges his ego as a matter of self-identity, the general has become aware of where his ego can be an effective weapon and likewise where the permission of its manifestation will hold him back, eg: in matters of defence. In light of this, the general has learned to condition himself to be egotistical only where necessary. One could characterise a general as not only a king with a more disciplined ego, but likewise a more mature and learned king. A king in his 20′s, with some self-awareness, experience and the counsel of an advisor or two could flourish into a general by the time he hits his 30′s or 40′s.
Generals do not have to evolve out of Kings, although typically from my experience and observation it appears that this is how they most frequently manifest. Aside from issues of ego, the other major difference that sets kings and generals apart is the ability to strategise. If the ability to control one’s ego and strategise well is present from a young age, then as unlearned as that Machiavellian may be, he is a young general. If said man cannot strategise as well as an advisor, then he is not a general, but a king in need of an advisor. A general in all simplicity is a fully dark triad man who has learned to curb his lust for sadism as well as mitigate his ineffectual narcissism in order to get results. He prioritises the mechanics of the game above his own quirks, he is thee pragmatist among pragmatists, the disciplined hand of amoral efficiency.
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