The 48 Laws of Power | An amoral life guide

The author of The 48 Laws of Power was inspired by Machiavelli's The Prince.

The author of The 48 Laws of Power was inspired, in part, by Machiavelli's book The Prince. Image from Flickr.

Written in 1998, Robert Greene & Joost Elffers’ The 48 Laws of Power is a book that is part self-help, part philosophy, and part history. The 48 Laws of Power takes the view that human interaction is based on an exchange of power and provides an outline for how to manipulate that power exchange for your benefit. Though much like getting a fax payday loan, getting the upper hand often takes effort and consideration.

The 48 Laws of Power are amoral

Similar to the book’s inspirations, The Prince and The Art of War, Greene and Elffers take a very amoral view of the world. Rather than saying certain actions or laws are good, bad or otherwise, the book just lays them out with real-world examples. By writing in this style, the authors are asking readers of the book to make their own moral judgments about the laws and whether they should be followed or not. This amoral style of writing can be tough to read at times, but in the end it encourages discussion and deeper thought.

What are the 48 laws?

While the book The 48 Laws of Power itself is more than 400 pages, just reading the 48 laws themselves can be a starting point for thought or discussion. So what are the 48 Laws of Power?

  • Law 1 Never Outshine the Master
  • Law 2 Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies
  • Law 3 Conceal your Intentions
  • Law 4 Always Say Less than Necessary
  • Law 5 So Much Depends on Reputation. Guard it with your Life
  • Law 6 Court Attention at all Cost
  • Law 7 Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit
  • Law 8 Make other People come to you, use Bait if Necessary
  • Law 9 Win through your Actions, Never through Argument
  • Law 10 Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
  • Law 11 Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
  • Law 12 Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim
  • Law 13 When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude
  • Law 14 Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
  • Law 15 Crush your Enemy Totally
  • Law 16 Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor
  • Law 17 Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability
  • Law 18 Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself. Isolation is Dangerous
  • Law 19 Know Who You’re Dealing with. Do Not Offend the Wrong Person
  • Law 20 Do Not Commit to Anyone
  • Law 21 Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker. Seem Dumber than your Mark
  • Law 22 Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power
  • Law 23 Concentrate Your Forces
  • Law 24 Play the Perfect Courtier
  • Law 25 Re-Create Yourself
  • Law 26 Keep Your Hands Clean
  • Law 27 Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following
  • Law 28 Enter Action with Boldness
  • Law 29 Plan All the Way to the End
  • Law 30 Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
  • Law 31 Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal
  • Law 32 Play to People’s Fantasies
  • Law 33 Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
  • Law 34 Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated like one
  • Law 35 Master the Art of Timing
  • Law 36 Disdain Things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best Revenge
  • Law 37 Create Compelling Spectacles
  • Law 38 Think as you Like but Behave Like Others
  • Law 39 Stir up Waters to Catch Fish
  • Law 40 Despise the Free Lunch
  • Law 41 Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes
  • Law 42 Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter
  • Law 43 Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others
  • Law 44 Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect
  • Law 45 Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once
  • Law 46 Never Appear Perfect
  • Law 47 Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for; In Victory, Learn when to Stop
  • Law 48 Assume Formlessness

Source: Perdue University

The Influence of The 48 Laws of Power

In a CNN article today, reporter John Blake examined the influence of The 48 Laws of Power. Most recently, rapper 50 cent teamed up with Greene, the author of the original 48 Laws of Power to write The 50th Law which uses the 48 Laws along with stories from 50 Cent’s life to illustrate the “admittedly cutthroat” principles.

This success, however, does not mean that The 48 Laws of Power is not without criticism. Some say that the book uses examples that are too “isolated” to truly illustrate their truth, while others claim that the 48 laws are simply too many for people to effectively understand. The only way to really form an opinion aboutThe 48 Laws of Power, though, is to read it yourself. Once you’ve done the research, just like with finding the best personal loan rates, you’ll be able to make an educated decision about The 48 Laws of Power.

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