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The 48 Laws of Power

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The 48 Laws of Power

Joost Elffers Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Forty-eight crafty, cunning, deliberate, detailed strategies for getting - and keeping - power. Scruples optional.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This book is amoral, hauntingly true and indispensable. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone who aspires to any level of success in any organization or profession. It should not gather dust but should be read regularly, according to a plan - one law a day, for example, absorbed slowly and contemplated deeply. Author Robert Greene draws on a rich variety of sources including books so threatening that they were banned by the ancient Chinese. He cites the memoirs of Machiavelli, various con men and many others who swept aside what ought to be in order to focus on what is. It might seem that anyone who follows all of these laws in their rich, narrative detail will turn out to be a very unpleasant person. That’s probably not true. getAbstract suspects, in contrast, that the person who masters the laws of power will be extremely pleasant, with winning ways and a knack for likeability, yet awe-inspiring and in control - though not always obviously so. Doesn’t that sound tempting?


The Ways of Power

The need for power is so fundamental, so essentially human, that when you feel you have no power over people or events, you are likely to be depressed. People who pretend to have no aspirations to power are either deceiving themselves or attempting to deceive others. Everyone wants power. The more they get, the more they want. Power is like a drug, but it does not weaken you. On the contrary, it makes you stronger.

Yet, it is considered somewhat impolite and vulgar, almost an outrage, to seek power forthrightly. Those who want power must seem to have no interest in it. Indeed, they must pretend to care only about others. The person who best projects an image of not caring for power will become the most powerful. It is paradoxical and, perhaps, unhealthy but you cannot honestly and straightforwardly pursue power. You must disguise your means and ends. This does not mean lying. Indeed, it is wrong to lie, not because lying is immoral, although according to moral codes it is, but rather because the risk of being exposed is too great. Power depends on trust. The known liar loses trust and, therefore, loses power. Duplicity is another matter. These laws...

About the Author

Robert Greene has a degree in classical studies and has been an editor at Esquire and other magazines.

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    V. S. 3 weeks ago
    Thus why many narcissists are in a position of power.
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    M. B. 4 years ago
    There is a huge error in Law 9, an error that states the law as totally opposite than it actually is. Lol <br> <br>Quote from the actual book: <br>“Demonstrate, do not explicate” <br> <br>But this summary says to NOT demonstrate. What you meant to write was do not argue, but DO demonstrate.
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      4 years ago
      Corrected, thank you.
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    B. W. 7 years ago
    I read the book last year and used the abstract as a review. Such great material. Please note you are doing yourself a HUGE disservice by not reading the actual book. Robert Greene is a genius and the book really gives meaning and applicability to the laws.
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      7 years ago
      Thanks very much for your comment. Often our summaries do exactly as you suggest: help people select which books they want to read in their entirety. Erica Rauzin, senior managing editor, getAbstract