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The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
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The 48 Laws of Power (1998)

by Robert Greene

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To be honest, I began reading this book with resentment. Most of what the author was advocating seemed diabolical and immoral. I continued reading with the goal of learning what power tricks to avoid in others. And in the context, the book was enlightening.

As I continued reading, my position softened. There were still some aspects that I would not emulate but with each successive law, I found myself being won over to the arguments and appreciating the lessons. One or two of the lessons even had personal significance to me and I felt I could really improve my relationships by employing their wisdom. ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
In direct contrast to the compassion-oriented management books that dominate today’s business bestseller lists is The 48 Laws of Power, a Machiavellian treatise for the modern age. Part Prince, part Art of War, Robert Greene’s best seller boasts the unique distinction of being quoted by such management luminaries as Jay Z, UGK, Kanye West, and Drake, and even featured in tattoos sported by the likes of Calvin Harris and DJ Premier. (50 Cent liked the book so much he went on to co-author the sequel.) The 48 Laws of Power has enjoyed similar popularity in diverse walks of life, from Wall Street to Hollywood to D.C.

The author views everything through the lens of power, which results in a distinctly uncomfortable degree of honesty about why humans do what they do. He labels as disingenuous anyone who claims that we do what we do for reasons other than power, and illustrates how people who try to “opt out” of the game of power by championing honesty, equality, or naivety are actually leveraging a time-honored law of power themselves.

In terms of format, the book is eminently readable. After each law, a slightly expanded summary of the meaning is included, followed by a historical incident that illustrates transgression of the law, then another historical anecdote about an observance of the law. The author finishes each law by expounding on the “keys of power,” or the details about how to apply the law in practice, and cautioning us with the “reversal”, or how the particular law may not apply in all situations.

The only solution I could find to concisely give you the core of the book was to list only a summary of the meaning of each law. To attempt to recap a story supporting each one would result in a massively unwieldy article, so this book summary is a verbatim quotation of the author’s laws and summaries thereof. Without further ado:


The 48 Laws of Power:

Law 1: Never outshine the master. Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends; learn how to use enemies. Be wary of friends – they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

Read the rest at http://www.deconstructingexcellence.com/the-48-laws-of-power/ ( )
  DE_Blog | Apr 8, 2015 |
One might say this book needed to be written. Taken at face value, it is cruel and amoral. Taken as an interpretation of history, politics, and personal conflicts, it is extraordinarily incisive and factual. A plethora of examples and anecdotes taken from all over the world and exemplified in various philosophical, political, and socio-economic schools of thought clearly demonstrate each point without betraying any particular bias. Written from a cynical angle, the book is about how to recognize, defend against, and be above the practice of these power plays, rather than about promoting antisocial behaviors. ( )
  krista.rutherford | Dec 26, 2014 |
Not so much a how-to (though I guess you could read it that way) as a what-to-look-out-for. How you interpret this book says a lot about you, I suppose. By reading this book, you can learn when someone who read it as a how-to is using the laws against you. ( )
  evenlake | Nov 28, 2014 |
I hated every word of this manual for the soulless. It's a perfect example of exactly what's wrong with Big Pharma, big business, Wall Street, and in short capitalism as it's currently practiced. This book, which is kinda-sorta a synthesis of many previous Me First directives (Machiavelli leaps to mind), is a handbook on how to fuck over everyone you come in contact with, in order for you to get "ahead" and "succeed". It'd be awesome for sociopaths and wanna-be-CEOs. It plunged me into despair. Parts of it actually raised gooseflesh on my arms while I was reading, I was so freaked out.

Repellent. Utterly amoral. Reprehensible. Negative 300 million zillion stars. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140280197, Paperback)

Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive, this piercing work distills three thousand years of the history of power in to forty-eight well explicated laws. As attention-grabbing in its design as it is in its content, this bold volume outlines the laws of power in their unvarnished essence, synthesizing the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun-tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, and other great thinkers.

Some laws teach the need for prudence ("Law 1: Never Outshine the Master"), the virtue of stealth ("Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions"), and many demand the total absence of mercy ("Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally"), but like it or not, all have applications in real life.

Illustrated through the tactics of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Kissinger, P. T. Barnum, and other famous figures who have wielded--or been victimized by--power, these laws will fascinate any reader interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive, this piercing work distills three thousand years of the history of power into 48 well-explicated laws. It outlines the laws of power in their unvarnished essence, synthesizing the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun-tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, and other great thinkers. Some laws teach the need for prudence, the virtue of stealth, and many demand the total absence of mercy, but like it or not, all have applications in real life. Illustrated through the tactics of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Kissinger, P. T. Barnum, and other famous figures who have wielded--or been victimized by--power, these laws will fascinate any reader interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control.--From publisher description.… (more)

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