Machiavelli & Modern Business: Realist Thought in Contemporary Corporate Leadership Manuals*
Niccolo Machiavelli’s teachings have never gone out of fashion; no doubt because power remains a central aspect of modern political and corporate life. The writings of this 16th century thinker seem as relevant today as they were a half millennium ago. Given the immutable nature of human beings, this is hardly surprising. What is surprising is the regular stream of monographs published in the last third of the 20th century, and reaching a crescendo in the last decade, that argue for Machiavelli’s relevance to modern management and corporate leadership. This essay will examine the structure, assumptions and conclusions of these manuals. After reviewing the manuals, this essay concludes that certain of these assumptions upon which these manuals are based are not transferable from a 16th century principality to a 21st century corporation. Not surprisingly, the teachings of these manuals concerning morality and the corporation are either inconsistent with the actual teachings of Machiavelli, or fail to acknowledge the teachings of Machiavelli most relevant to the modern corporate world.
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