The audit culture has become a hegemonic force because of changes in the relationships between polity and economy in wider society. Power is more than ever ‘action at a distance’, a schema which is part of the art of government, as Machiavelli, in The Prince, stated in his maxims. This analytic article seeks to excavate how the interconnections implied by Machiavelli are manifested today. One effect of the incorporation of them into government policy values is the probable damage to the European Enlightenment pursuit of independent and objective research. A corollary of this neo-liberal hegemony means university cultures of research are becoming aligned closely with the corporate sector's values and interests. Academics are becoming a subjugated modern (intellectual) peasantry. Their masters are the ruling systems of hegemonic sectional interests, state and corporate. It is concluded that the power structures embedded in audit culture and the aspirations of reputation management, quality control and ranking hierarchies ‘promote’ deception, a necessary evil according to Machiavelli. Kafka-like impersonal bureaucratic accountability procedures may proliferate, further damaging the integrity of intellectual objects and, of course, the academics behind their manufacture, who will be obligated to interpellate with the deep structures of audit culture.