The short answer is Yes. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is one of the most influential and controversial books published in recent history. If you seek Power, are interested in studying it, or want to arm yourself against it, this is the book to read.
Some compare this book with popular strategy books like Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince. But before reading more than 400 pages, here are a few things you must know.
How Do You Use The 48 Laws of Power?
The 48 Laws of Power is your handbook on the arts of indirection. The author, Robert Greene, suggests you use this book in several ways:
Read The Book Straight Through
This approach will help you understand Power in general. Even though some laws may not seem to apply directly to your life, I guarantee you’ll find them relevant and interconnected with other laws in time. By getting a big-picture view of the Power, you’ll be better able to judge your own actions and take more control of your life. A comprehensive reading of this book will encourage you to reflect long after you’ve put it down.
Browse And Pick
The book is set up to make it easy to find what you need, whether looking up the law on a particular topic or browsing through similar cases. You can find the relevant law by reading the introductory paragraphs to each of the 48 Laws listed in the table of contents.
Read For Fun
People can look through the book and pick it apart for fun. It’s a fascinating experience to learn about the mistakes and great things committed by famous personalities in history. But I caution anyone using the book this way: you should reconsider.
Power is always alluring and misleading in its own way. It’s like a labyrinth: your mind gets caught up in this game of Power, and you don’t even realize how thrilled you are to be lost. In other words, taking it seriously makes it very entertaining.
What Are The 48 Laws Of Power In Order?
Law 1: Never Outshine The Master
Always make those above you feel better than you. To impress or win over a superior, don’t go too ambitious and display your skills too much. This won’t impress them but might make them feel threatened instead. Try to make your superiors appear more brilliant than they already are to inspire admiration and trust.
Further Reading: Why Should You Not Outshine The Master
Law 2: Never Put Too Much Trust In Friends, Learn How To Use Enemies
Friends are more likely to betray you than foes, as envy is a powerful motivator. But if you hire someone who used to be your enemy, they will most likely be more loyal than a friend because they have more to prove. Your friends pose a more significant threat to your safety than your enemies. Get yourself some enemies if you don’t already have any.
You can learn more about this Law 2 here.
Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions
Keep people in the dark about your actions by never revealing your agenda. If they don’t know what you’re up to, they can’t think of a way to stop you. If you lead them down the wrong path long enough and surround them with enough smoke, it will be too late when they figure out your true motives.
Further reading: Why Conceal Your Intentions?
Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary
If you want people to think you’re powerful, don’t try and say too much. Saying something simple can seem original if it is vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. One of the hallmarks of Power is the ability to communicate little yet evoke fear and respect. More talking equals more chances of saying something stupid.
Further Reading: Why You Should Say Less Than Necessary.
Law 5: So Much Depends On Reputation — Guard It With Your Life
Reputation is powerful. Regardless of what you do, having a solid reputation will intimidate your opponents and make them think twice about attacking you. Once your reputation has been damaged, it will be more challenging to defend against attacks.
Ensure your reputation is unassailable by maintaining it and tarnishing it as little as possible. Always stay alert for potential attacks and prevent them. Meanwhile, find ways to compromise the reputation of your opponents. Once you do that, use public opinion to keep them hanging.
Further reading: Detailed analysis of So Much Depends on Reputation.
Law 6: Court Attention At All Cost
The only thing that matters is what can be seen; everything else is meaningless. It would be best if you never allowed yourself to become forgotten amid a sea of people. Differentiate yourself.
Take advantage of every opportunity to draw attention to yourself. Attract people’s interest by standing out from the crowd and appearing more outlandish, exotic, and mysterious than the average person.
Further reading: learn how to court attention at all cost
Law 7: Get Others To Do The Work For You, But Always Take The Credit
Handing responsibility off to others is an excellent way to save time and energy. It also gives you an aura of efficiency, which will be seen as a godly power by those who need your help. You’ll be remembered, not your helpers. Never take on tasks that other people can perform for you.
Further Reading: How To Get The Work Done By Others
Law 8: Make Other People Come To You — Use Bait If Necessary
To control an opponent, you must make him come to you. Pulling him away from his original plans will give you an advantage. Lure your opponent with a great promise or benefit, then attack where he is most vulnerable. Don’t give your opponent any time to react!
Further Reading: Make Others Come To You
Law 9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through An Argument
Show, don’t tell. It’s a false sense of triumph to think you’ve changed someone’s mind through argument. The bitterness and ill will you stir up are greater and last longer than any temporary shift in perspective. It’s considerably more effective to win people over with your actions than words.
Further Reading: Are Actions More Important Than Words?
Law 10: Infection: Avoid The Unhappy And Unlucky
Emotions are just like diseases and can be as contagious. You might feel that you’re helping someone, but in the end, it can be a downer for you too.
Those who are unlucky often bring bad luck upon themselves; they will also bring it upon you if you let them. Instead, surround yourself with upbeat and lucky people.
Further Reading: Law 10 Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
Law 11: Learn To Keep People Dependent On You
It’s essential to always remain in demand if you want to keep your freedom. The more people rely on you, the more independence you will have. Making other people’s well-being and success depends on you all the time. Never give them enough knowledge that they can function without you.
Further Reading: How Do You Make Someone Completely Dependent On You
Law 12: Use Selective Honesty And Generosity To Disarm Your Victim
A single act of honesty might make up for many deceitful ones. Even the most guarded individuals can be brought to their knees by displays of openhearted honesty and compassion.
Your selective honesty will help you to open a hole in their armor, allowing you to deceive and manipulate them as you desire. A timely gift—a Trojan horse—will have the same effect.
Further Reading: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity
Law 13: When Asking For Help, Appeal To People’s Self-interest, Never To Their Mercy Or Gratitude
It would be best if you refrained from bringing up your past help and good deeds to an ally when you need help from him. He’ll come up with excuses to avoid you. Find something mutually beneficial in your request and make that your focus. He’ll get on board wholeheartedly if he can see a personal benefit.
Further Reading: How Do You Ask For Help And Actually Get It
Law 14: Pose As A Friend, Work As A Spy
To stay ahead of the competition, you should use spies to find valuable information about your rivals. You could also pretend to be a spy yourself.
You can ask indirect questions to get the person you’re interested in to reveal their weaknesses and what they plan on doing. There’s never a time that you don’t have the opportunity for artful spying.
Further reading: Pose As A Friend Work As A Spy Meaning
Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally
All great leaders since Moses know that you must destroy your enemies completely. Don’t give your opposition any chance to grow and rebuild. No matter how faintly it burns, any remaining ember will eventually grow into a full-fledged fire. It’s better to go all the way and destroy the enemy than to stop short and let them recover and exact their revenge. More than anything, break your enemy’s will.
Further Reading: How To Crush Your Enemy Totally
Law 16: Use Absence To Increase Respect And Honor
Too much of the same is no good: More visibility and recognition can make you appear more ordinary. You have to know when to go. Creating value through scarcity should be your guiding light, and less is more.
Further Reading: Guide On How to Use Absence Strategically
Law 17: Keep Others In Suspended Terror: Cultivate An Air Of Unpredictability
Humans are creatures of habit, but we also crave moments of novelty. Surprise them with something they weren’t expecting. You’ll have the upper hand without trying.
Behaving in a way that makes no sense will keep them guessing, and they will get exhausted trying to make sense of your actions. This tactic can instill fear and terror in its targets when carried too far.
Further Reading: How To Keep Others In Suspended Terror
Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses To Protect Yourself — Isolation Is Dangerous
Everyone needs to take safety measures, as danger lurks around every corner, and enemies can be found anywhere. It would appear that the safest option is a fortress. However, isolation leaves you vulnerable to more threats than it solves. It prevents you from gaining access to crucial resources and makes you an easy target.
It is to your advantage to mingle and mix with people, to search for allies, and to circulate. The protection of the masses keeps you safe from your enemies.
Further Reading: Do Not Build Fortresses To Protect Yourself Meaning
Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing With — Do Not Offend The Wrong Person
You can’t assume that everyone will have the same reaction to your strategies because there are so many different types of people in the world. If you outwit or deceive certain people, they may spend their lives plotting your destruction. So, pick your targets and adversaries wisely; you never want to hurt or mislead the wrong person.
Further Reading: The Serpent With A Long Memory and Other People You Must Not Offend
Law 20: Do Not Commit To Anyone
A fool is someone quick to take a stance on any issue. Do not pledge allegiance to any group or cause other than your own. Staying independent allows you to control the actions of those around you, pitting them against each other to get you on their side.
Further Reading: Law 20 Do Not Commit To Anyone Explained
Law 21: Play A Sucker To Catch A Sucker—Seem Dumber Than Your Mark
People don’t want to be labeled as stupid. The goal is to make your targets believe they are more intelligent than you and more competent than others. If you convince them of this, they are unlikely to ever suspect you of ulterior intentions.
Further Reading: Always Seem Dumber Than Your Mark
Law 22: Use The Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness Into Power
Never fight for an honor when you are outmatched; instead, surrender. Surrendering allows you to rest, torment, annoy your enemy, and wait for his influence to fade.
The opportunity to turn the other cheek and surrender is usually a good decision. It allows you to get out of an unfavorable situation with your dignity intact, and it can also cause your opponent frustration. Learn to use surrender as a weapon.
Further Reading: Use The Surrender Tactic Explained
Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces
Intensity beats extensity most of the time. Conserve your strength and energy by keeping it focused where it’s needed most: the point of greatest advantage.
You get more done if you invest much energy into one specific event rather than spreading it thinly over various endeavors. When looking for sources of Power and influence, find the one key patron who will give you good support over a long time.
Further Reading: What Does It Mean To Concentrate Your Forces?
Law 24: Play The Perfect Courtier
The perfect courtier blooms in an environment where political skills and influence are critical. He is a master of subtlety and discretion, and he uses these skills to his advantage in every interaction. Learning and employing the rules of “courtiership” will help you attain Power and influence.
Further Reading: What Does Play The Perfect Courtier Mean?
Law 25: Recreate Yourself
Never conform to the expectations set for you by others. Create a new you that constantly attracts and retains people’s interest. Stop letting other people control your perception and take charge of your image. Your Power will be amplified, and your personality will appear larger than life if you include dramatic devices in the gestures and actions you perform in public.
Further Reading: How To Recreate Yourself
Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean
You must appear as though you are always on top of things and have never made a mistake. One way to do this is to use other people to do the dirty work for you, which allows you to maintain the appearance of being perfect. Learn to use others as your scapegoats and cat’s paws to hide your involvement.
Further Reading: How To Keep Your Hands Clean
Law 27: Play On People’s Need To Believe To Create A Cultlike Following
The need for faith in something is universal. Take advantage of this fact by giving people something to believe in and fight for. Maintain an air of mystery while promising great things; put enthusiasm ahead of logic and reason.
Provide your new followers with rituals to complete and sacrifices to offer in your name. Your newfound faith will grant you incredible influence.
Further Reading: How Do I Start A Cult Like Following
Law 28: Enter Action With Boldness
If you are unsure of what to do, don’t do it. Hesitation will ruin the execution. Being timid is risky: Better to be confident and make mistakes that can be corrected with more boldness. Those who take risks are admired, while those who are timid are rarely given any recognition.
Further Reading: Why You Must Enter Action With Boldness
Law 29: Plan All The Way To The End
The ending is everything. Consider any possible obstacles in your way, any twists of fortune that might allow you to be upstaged. If you plan ahead, you’ll be less likely to get lost in the moment or overwhelmed by developments.
You’ll also have a better sense of what needs to be done right now and what can wait until later. Consider all possible futures and always know when to stop.
Further Reading: How To Plan All The Way To The End
Law 30: Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
What you do needs to look effortless and natural. All the hard work and practice, not to mention all the tricks and ingenuity that go into them, must be kept secret.
When you act, do so with ease, as if you were capable of much more than you can. Don’t brag about your hard work; doing so will only invite criticism. Do not share your methods with others, as they can also be used against you.
Further Reading: Why Should You Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
Law 31: Control The Options: Get Others To Play With The Cards You Deal
You can manipulate your target more effectively if you make them believe they have some say in the matter. The reality is you are ultimately in charge of their actions. Give people choices where you come out ahead in any case.
Force them to choose between two plausible choices that serve your purpose. Place them with a difficult choice and put the odds against them.
Further Reading: What Does Control The Options Mean?
Law 32: Play To People’s Fantasies
The truth is often avoided because it is painful and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger from being confronted with the unpleasant reality.
People who can fabricate romance or dream up fantasies are like an oasis in the desert, and everyone rushes to them for solace. Reaching out and playing off people’s wildest fantasies can give you incredible powers.
Further Reading: How to Play To People’s Fantasies
Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
Everybody has weaknesses, and there’s usually something you can use to your advantage. This weakness is typically insecurity, an emotion or need that are out of one’s control. However, it may also be a small pleasure that is kept a secret. It’s a thumbscrew that can be used to your advantage once you find it.
Further Reading: Meaning of Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
Law 34: Be Royal In Your Own Fashion: Act Like A King To Be Treated Like One
Your behavior is a significant factor in how others will treat you. Long-term, people will treat you less seriously if you project an image of being crude or unrefined. By acting royal and feeling confident, you’re making yourself look powerful. You should take that energy and let it shape how you present yourself to others.
Further Reading: How to Act Like a King
Law 35: Master The Art Of Timing
No matter what is happening, there’s never any need to be in a hurry. Hurrying can make you seem desperate and lack control over your actions. Act patient, like everything will come to you eventually.
Learn to be a detective of opportunity and identify the vibe of the times and movements that propel you to the top. Master the art of waiting for the right moment to attack and then launching an all-out assault once it arrives.
Further Reading: How To Master The Art Of Timing
Law 36: Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is The Best Revenge
Bringing attention to a trivial issue gives it more weight and significance. Giving an enemy more time and energy only boosts his Power, and correcting a minor mistake makes it glaring and noticeable to others.
There are times when doing nothing is the best option. If you want something but can’t have it, act like you don’t care about it. The less you show that you care, the better you look.
Further Reading: Ignore What You Can’t Have
Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles
Everyone is moved by powerful imagery and large symbolic gestures because they convey an air of authority. So, put on shows for the people around you full of striking images and bright symbols that strengthen your presence. People will be too distracted by your impressive outward appearance to notice your ulterior motives.
Further Reading: How To Create Compelling Spectacles
Law 38: Think As You Like But Behave Like Others
You’ll get punished if you stand out too much from the crowd. Refuse to conform, and people will think you’re trying to show off or see them as inferior. Clearly, this is not a good idea for anyone, and it’s much safer to blend in and act like everyone else. Share your honest thoughts only with friends who appreciate them.
Further Reading: Think As You Like But Behave Like Others Meaning
Law 39: Stir Up Waters To Catch Fish
Anger and emotion lead to poor decision-making. If your goal is to be successful, you must always stay objective and rational. However, you gain a great advantage if you can make your enemy angry while remaining calm.
Find out their deepest vulnerabilities and deliver attacks accordingly. This will make them second-guess themselves and what they’re doing, which will cause them to lose momentum.
Further Reading: What Does Stir Up Water To Catch Fish Mean?
Law 40: Despise The Free Lunch
What is given away for free poses a threat because it usually comes with some catch or invisible obligation. Whatever has value also has a price. You don’t have to deal with gratitude, guilt, or lying when you pay your own way.
It makes sense to spend the total cost because excellence cannot be compromised. Be generous with your money and use it since generosity is a sign of Power.
Further Reading: Why You Should Avoid The Free Lunch
Law 41: Avoid Stepping Into A Great Man’s Shoes
Sometimes, it’s hard to outshine someone who has come before us. If you’re succeeding in their footsteps or have a famous parent, you’ll have to work twice as hard for people to notice your achievements. Don’t be overshadowed by somebody else’s legacy.
Challenge yourself and find your own path. Create your own identity by branching off and going in a different direction. Overcome the powerful father, criticize his methods and show your worth by doing it another way.
Further Reading: Why You Must Avoid Stepping Into A Great Man’s Shoes
Law 42: Strike The Shepherd And The Sheep Will Scatter
When problems arise, it’s often because of one influential person: the troublemaker, the conceited subordinate, the saboteur of goodwill. If you give these people room to do what they want, others will follow their lead.
It would help if you cut them off before they cause too much trouble. They are irredeemable, so you will want to neutralize them with force and permanently banish them from the group. Strike the root of the problem, and you can achieve victory without much effort.
Further Reading: Strike The Shepherd And The Sheep Will Scatter Meaning
Law 43: Work On The Hearts And Minds Of Others
Forcing someone to do something will only backfire in the long run. You have to charm people into following you. When you seduce someone, they become your devoted servant.
And the way to get someone to like you is to play on their unique personalities and weaknesses. When handling resistant people, try to appeal to their emotions by tapping into what they value. Ignore their feelings at your own risk.
Further Reading: Work On The Hearts And Minds Of Others Meaning
Law 44: Disarm And Infuriate With The Mirror Effect
Mirroring your enemies can be incredibly useful. By forcing them to deal with their own image, you can make them overreact so that you can get the upper hand. When you copy the enemy’s tactics, they become incapable of figuring out your strategy.
You can seduce them by making your target believe you share their values or teach them a lesson by reflecting their behavior like the mirror. The Mirror Effect is potent, and few people can resist it.
Further Reading: The Mirror Effect Psychology
Law 45: Preach The Need For Change, But Never Reform Too Much At Once
Change is necessary, but too much change can be traumatic. People need time to adapt to change, which is why it’s essential to introduce new changes slowly.
You must show in your actions that you respect the “old way” and only make improvements when change is necessary. This is critical when you take on new responsibilities or when you’re an outsider trying to build your Power.
Further Reading: The Right Way To Preach The Need To Change
Law 46: Never Appear Too Perfect
People want to look good all the time, and this is dangerous. But it’s even more dangerous when you come off as having no flaws or weaknesses. This will make people envious, who may start out as your silent enemies.
Although you should be your best self daily and set a good example for others, it is also intelligent to admit to slight imperfections or harmless vices every now and then. Nobody can always seem perfect with complete impunity.
Further Reading: Why You Must Never Appear Too Perfect
Law 47: Do Not Go Past The Mark You Aimed For: In Victory, Learn When To Stop
The most dangerous times are right after a victory. When you’re on top, it’s easy to let your ego get the best of you and start thinking you can accomplish anything. If you push things too far, you’ll have more enemies than before.
Be careful not to let your accomplishments give you a false sense of superiority. It would be best if you stop once you’ve accomplished the objective you’ve set for yourself.
Further Reading: In Victory Learn When to Stop
Law 48: Assume Formlessness
When you commit to a form or make your intentions plain to others, you invite harm upon yourself. It’s better to be adaptable and constantly shifting than to take a form your foe can easily recognize and exploit.
There are no certainties in life and no laws that stay the same forever. One way to keep yourself safe is to be like water- don’t bet on things staying as they are or people being precisely the same as before. Change is a constant, and everything changes.
Further Reading: The Power of Assuming Formlessness
Is 48 Laws Of Power Evil?
Many believe the 48 Laws of Power is evil, but it depends on how you want to use this book. As Robert Green pointed out, Power is essentially amoral or “showing no concern about whether the behavior is morally right or wrong.”
It is important to remember that Power is a game and that you should not assess your opponents based on their intentions but rather on the results of their actions. You evaluate their tactics and Power based on what you can observe and experience. Too often, people let their motives cloud their judgment.
What difference does it make if another player, be it a friend or riyal, had good intentions and only your interests in mind. Still, the results of his action lead to ruin and confusion? People naturally use all kinds of justifications and always think they act in good faith.
It’s all a game when it comes to Power. You and your opponent are at opposite ends of a table. You use strategy when playing, keeping as much composure as possible while watching your opponent’s moves. Do not let anything else distract your attention. It would be best if you focused on the outcomes of their actions all the time.
Is The 48 Laws Of Power True?
Yes, The 48 Laws of Power are based on true accounts, and it is a compilation of all the knowledge gathered over the years. The book was put together by studying the writings and strategies of the most illustrious strategists, politicians, courtiers, seducers, and con artists in history.
The laws came from those who had explored and perfected the art of gaining and maintaining Power. These texts were compiled from more than three thousand years in societies as diverse as ancient China and Renaissance Italy. There are recurring ideas and elements in these texts that hint at an unspoken but crucial aspect of Power.
Why Is The 48 Laws Of Power Banned In Prison?
The reason 48 Laws of Power is banned in prisons is that this book contains a lot of strategies for manipulating people. According to some US correctional institutions, this book is built on manipulating other people and situations.
When it comes to the power struggle, a prison system already has many issues like this. There’s no need to make it worse. Incidentally, Robert Green‘s other famous book, The Art of Seduction, is also banned in prison.
Law 3 (Conceal Your Intentions), 6 (Court Attention At All Cost), 11 (Learn to Keep People Dependent on You), and 33 (Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew) are deemed to be the most disturbing laws for prisoners.