The 48 Laws of Power

Means of Manipulation

By Sara Danial | April 2023

Many a tyrant would have been dis-empowered had their subjects been aware of the mind-games humans have consistently used against one another throughout history. Because sometimes, ignorance is as responsible for the abuse of power as the propagation of it.

If you are a reader who likes to collect timeless reads that you can go back and refer to, then ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ by Robert Greene should find space in your bookshelf. An extraordinary book, it will remain a classic for all times to come, with important and helpful lessons in attaining power in life, business, and more, with historical case studies where these laws are in practice, and drastic results for those who do not respect these laws.

A cynic may view these laws as manipulative. They may be, perhaps. They say the ground realities are extremely different and it’s more important to understand them, before choosing the how, when, and which law to practice. It would be a disservice to the book if you dismiss them with ignorant attitude and blatantly refuse to acknowledge their existence and relevance.

Unprincipled, calculating, brutal, and enlightening, this New York Times bestseller is your bible to gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control. From the author of The Laws of Human Nature, this book has been proclaimed “beguiling” and “fascinating” at the same time. Greene has managed to amalgamate years of history into 48 essential laws by drawing from the learnings of celebrated intellects such as Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz, among others including lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.

The first law, Never Outshine the Master, teaches the need to be prudent, while law 28 preaches the value of confidence, Enter Action with Boldness. Others recommend absolute self-preservation, Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally. Every law is ingrained in the same vein - an interest in total domination. The offering is perfect for your aim in conquest, self-defense, or simply to understand the rules of the game.

The book teaches how to be smart and ambitious about succeeding in life. It focuses on the need to stand out in this world, because if you roll with the punches, being lost can be inevitable. While I understand why this book has been critiqued on moral grounds, but many people have probably missed the point. Regardless of how we feel about the power games around us historically in public and private lives, the hard reality is that they exist, and they are very real. So this book addresses 48 approaches to power that one can use, or experience them being used against you at some point in life, whether you agree with it ethically or not.

One doesn’t need to be a deceitful, heartless prick who goes to any length for personal gain to be able to appreciate this book. And even if one is, YOU STILL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK to protect yourself from amoral, deceitful pricks. It only makes you more aware of your surroundings and then how to deal with them in perilous social life. Definitely a book of wisdom, a compilation of tactics, hordes of to-avoid mistakes, rich set of brilliant tested ideas for thriving. Here are a few laws that I particularly liked:

Law 1: Never outshine your master
Law 4: Always say less than necessary
Law 13: When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude
Law 19: Know who you are dealing with, do not offend the wrong person
Law 40: Despise the free lunch
Law 46: Never appear too perfect

Final verdict: Although the book is brimmed with fun and interesting historical anecdotes and ancient vignettes, it belongs in the section of sad-but-true.