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Robert Greene is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, and The 50th Law. His highly anticipated fifth book, Mastery, examines the lives of great historical figures such as Charles Darwin, Mozart, Paul Graham and Henry Ford and distills the traits and universal ingredients that made them masters. In addition to having a strong following within the business world and a deep following in Washington, DC, Greene's books are hailed by everyone from war historians to the biggest musicians in the industry (including Jay-Z and 50 Cent).
Greene attended U.C. Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he received a degree in classical studies. He currently lives in Los Angeles.
In one's life, you're better off following the teachings of Moses, Jesus, or Buddha to gain long-term happiness. But the sad fact is, many people live by a very different set of rules, and while most of these folks eventually self-destruct, they can inflict severe damage on our personal and professional lives in the process. 48 Rules of Power is a good primer for learning how these people think. I've spotted a number of similar books in the Business section (like "Career Warfare" and classics like the "Art of War") of my local bookseller, but none put things quite as succinctly as this one. In today's predatory work culture, with good jobs (read: jobs that let you own a home and pay all the bills month to month with a little left over) becoming harder and harder to find, you almost certainly will be the target of these techniques at some point. A friend once made an innocent and extraordinarily minor faux pas at an office Christmas party, and had a homicidal CEO attempt to destroy his future using methods as varied as slander and identity theft, all done through middle manager proxies to keep his own hands clean. You need to read books like these to know how too many people at the top think. But don't live out some of these rules in real life (e.g., crush your enemy completely) - there'll always be someone who does it better, and you will get crushed. Martha Stewart got hers, so don't think you're going to smash people and live to tell the tale. Reality simply doesn't work that way - and even if you survive professionally, the spiritual rot and personal decay will leave you an isolated, paranoid wreck. Read this book in the spirit of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, in which a master demon gives advice to a protege on how to destroy mortals. Learn how to spot people who live like this - and then stay very, very far away. Jesus said, "Be wise as serpents but innocent as doves." This book, read in the right spirit, will help you with both.
I have read the many reviews that criticize the 48 Laws as "Not Practical", "Dangerous" and "Shameless". What planet are you people from. I went to night school to get a college degree, I have followed my fathers advise and worked an honest days labor. I came in early and stayed late to get the job done. I have recieved great reviews and many promises of money and promotion. All for little. I noticed my peers, who were not as dedicated as I by their own admission, careers were moving along at the same pace as mine or faster. When I had enough, I began to talk to managers that I trusted and employees who have had success in career advancement. Guess what, their comments and advice were very similiar to many of the laws in this book. This book is very "Practical" and, while I admit, practicing many of these laws would be "Dangerous" and "Shameless" to ignore that they are present in our every day lives is delusional. It does not matter if you want to play the game or not, you are in it. You don't have to take a sword with you but for heavens sake at lest wear some armor. This book is that armor, to understand the 48 laws allows you to see the oppertunity/danger before it is to late. NO, I WILL NOT HURT PEOPLE FOR GAIN but I will no longer be used if I can help it.
This book is well-written and very nicely designed. Beyond that, it's hard to see what the fuss is about.
First of all, and on the one hand, the book isn't the torrent of Machiavellian amorality you may have been led to believe. The author does go out of his way to make it _sound_ as though he's presenting you with sophisticated, in-the-know, just-between-us-hardheaded-realists amoral guidance. But as a matter of fact almost every bit of this advice _could_ have been presented without offense to the most traditional of morality.
(For example, the law about letting other people do the work while you take the credit is made to sound worse than it really is. Sure, it admits of a "low" interpretation. But it's also, read slightly differently, a pretty apt description of what any good manager does.)
Second, and on the other hand, the advice isn't _that_ good; it's merely well-presented. How it works will depend on who follows it; as the old Chinese proverb has it, when the wrong person does the right thing, it's the wrong thing.
And that's why I have to deduct some stars from the book. For it seems to be designed to appeal precisely to the "wrong people."
Despite some sound advice, this book is aimed not at those who (like Socrates) share the power of reason with the gods, but at those who (like Ulysses) share it with the foxes. It seeks not to make you reasonable but to make you canny and cunning. And as a result, even when it advises you to do things that really do work out best for all concerned, it promotes an unhealthy sense that your best interests are at odds with nearly everyone else's. (And that the only reason for being helpful to other people is that it will advance your own cloak-and-dagger "career.Read more ›
When it comes to morality and ethics, people are used to thinking in terms of black and white. Conversely, "The 48 Laws of Power" deals primarily with the gray areas. At the risk of sounding melodramatic and trite, I say that most of the Laws covered in this book can be used for great evil or for great good. It depends on the reader. There is really nothing wrong with most of the Laws per se. Each Law comes with true stories from history about those who successfully observed it and those who foolishly or naively trangressed it. Robert Greene has an interpretation for each story. Though each Law is self-explanatory, Greene's explanations are not padding, fluff or stuffing to make the book longer. They actually give greater clarification and depth. Greene's insight even extends to crucial warnings about how the Laws could backfire. There are two reasons to read this book: 1. For attack: To gain power, as have others who have carefully observed the Laws; 2. For defense: To be aware of ways that people may be trying to manipulate you. As Johann von Goethe said (as quoted in "The 48 Laws of Power", of course): "The only means to gain one's ends with people are force and cunning. Love also, they say, but that is to wait for sunshine, and life needs every moment." Those who say they have never used any of these laws are either being hypocritical--or lying.