The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene｜Book Review｜
Hello readers! This week we are discussing The 48 Laws of Power written by Robert Greene.
As the title suggests, Greene identifies 48 principles that have been used throughout history that are important in order to develop and sustain power.
Here is my review:
Law #9 – Don’t argue
In the words of Greene, law #9 states that you should “win through your actions, never through argument.” The issue with arguing is that although we feel that we have established power through successfully winning an argument, the long-term impact can be negative. Greene suggests that when you’re arguing with someone, you risk creating long-term resentment. The other person may give in simply to satisfy you, yet still feel anger and hostility towards you, and thus could turn against you when the correct moment arises.
Instead, Greene suggests attempting to “win” through actions. Your actions are clear, whereas the way we speak, the words we use, and our tone can all considerably impact our success when dealing with others. Also, Greene mentions that in the heat of an argument, people will say anything to win the other person over and prove their power and dominance. The logic and rationality of what they are saying is of minimal importance. Essentially, focusing on our actions takes the emotions and potential room for interpretation out of the equation.
Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.
Law #13 – Self-interest
This law specifically states that “when asking for help, appeal to people’s self interests, never to their gratitude and mercy.” Throughout the process of establishing power, we will have to cooperate and interact with other people. Greene suggests that to successfully work with others, we have to appeal to people’s self-interests as it is human nature to want to serve ourselves. It’s important to understand that when asking someone for help, they have the upper-hand, they are in a leveraged position. Therefore, we have to show what benefits they can gain from supporting us. Of course, you may meet people who simply want to help you, for the sake of being a “good person”, however most of the time, appealing to their self-interest is a more efficient and effective way to gather support.
when asking for help, appeal to people’s self interests, never to their gratitude and mercy.
Visually, this is a very unique book. It provides short stories and poems related to the power law being discussed in red ink in the margins of certain pages. This is something I haven’t come across in other books and adds an extra visual and informational element to Greene’s work.
I also like that this book takes you throughout history. Greene has masterfully compiled stories of power from around the globe, including countries like China, Japan, France, and Germany. The stories are extremely wide-ranging and all serve a clear purpose, effectively highlighting the specific power law being discussed.
I found the format of this book very repetitive. From the first to the 48th law, the template remains the same. You are given one or two historical stories to show the law in action, Greene then interprets the law and finally a reversal is discussed, which suggests how in certain instances the power law may not apply.
Also, you are not provided with direct means of implementing these power laws. It’s up to you as the reader to interpret the power laws and find a means of implementing them into your life. Although I enjoyed the historical focus of this book, I would have enjoyed more tangible information to help implement the valuable ideas into my life.
Who should read this?
Anyone considering reading this book should read the introduction and they will know right away if this book is for them. I say this because the tone of the introduction will give you a sense of the direction that the book is going in. I felt that the tone was rather pessimistic and harsh. The reality of power is brutal and Greene doesn’t shy away from being direct about the purpose of this book.
If you love history, this book is absolutely for you. It will teach you the dynamics of power and how historical empires, dynasties and dictators rose and ultimately fell from power.
About Robert Greene