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The 48 Laws of Power
February 11, 2005 7:03 PM   Subscribe

The 48 Laws of Power. Law 1: Never Outshine the Master.
posted by swift (39 comments total)

 
the book (The 48 Laws of Power) is also very much worth reading. it provides a chapter on each law, with examples of when the law works, when the law didn't work (how to misuse it) and when something bad happened to someone who ignored the law. it provides you with a lot of neat short stories, mainly from european and chinese history.
posted by tiamat at 7:10 PM on February 11, 2005


by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

I wonder how powerful they are.
posted by sourwookie at 7:15 PM on February 11, 2005


Its such a tiny, tiny book with almost no good examples, and the examples he uses are more about 17th century courtiers than anything else. He should have just named it Machiavelli for dummies. I ran into this book recently and it reminds me of the token "Art of War" book every MBA has on his bookshelf. A bit faddish and its applications to real life situations are pretty limited.
posted by skallas at 7:17 PM on February 11, 2005


Alternatively....
posted by IndigoJones at 7:24 PM on February 11, 2005


Hilarious!
On preview: Sobering!
posted by underer at 7:24 PM on February 11, 2005


I don't think that I want to spend much time with people who subscribe to these philosophies.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:42 PM on February 11, 2005


I don't think that I want to spend much time with people who subscribe to these philosophies.

I agree. I found that very, very depressing.
posted by purtek at 7:47 PM on February 11, 2005


Wait a sec, where's
y = AxB
?
posted by orthogonality at 8:08 PM on February 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


That tiny, tiny book is 452 pages.

I read about half of it a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it and think it's well worth reading for the historical examples.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:10 PM on February 11, 2005


It's definitely not tiny. If anything, it could probably do with being condensed to half it's size; Not that it's a bad book, but the format of illustrating everything with lots of historical examples does make it lengthy beyond necessity. Nice if you enjoy reading short histories and fictions, but otherwise you're probably better off with The Prince, or if you don't mind the higher price, buying the laws of power and skimming over everything but the "keys to power" section of each chapter.
posted by fvw at 8:34 PM on February 11, 2005


by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

I wonder how powerful they are.


Well, I can't speak for Robert, but as for Joost, you should see him play with his food.
posted by yhbc at 8:50 PM on February 11, 2005


I love it how some of the rules are outright contradictory:

16 (reduce the mingling) vs. 18 (mingle)

29 (plan to the end) vs. 48 (just make it up as you go along)

15 (crush'em totally) vs. 47 (know when to stop)

There are probably many more.
posted by sour cream at 9:05 PM on February 11, 2005


I didn't know anyone else had heard of these. I received this book as a gift and later purchased a copy on Amazon for someone else. Afterwards it took about a year to flush the Amazon recommendations systems of freaky How-to-enforce-your-will-on-everyone manuals.
posted by coelecanth at 9:09 PM on February 11, 2005


It's like a recap of my office.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 9:36 PM on February 11, 2005


that sucked. Those Gracian quotes were a decent antidote though...
posted by Kifer85 at 9:56 PM on February 11, 2005


Its a useful book if you want rise through the ranks in your office or in politics. If you just want to understand those in management and other positions of power, I also recommend Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us.
posted by Meridian at 11:48 PM on February 11, 2005


Many tactics for gaining power are simple. They just interfere with other parts of people's lives, or are morally disgusting. Birth also has far too much to do with it.

However, even if you're poor, if you're willing to screw over anyone you have ever known without a twinge of guilt, and dedicate your entire life to it, you too can become powerful.
posted by Saydur at 12:33 AM on February 12, 2005


"However, even if you're poor, if you're willing to screw over anyone you have ever known without a twinge of guilt, and dedicate your entire life to it, you too can become powerful."

not true - theres much more than that - you have to have followers. anyone who just screws people over and nobody likes would just be thrown out of society and warned about. therefore no power.

unless you could shoot lasers out of your eyes.

then youd be pretty powerful


also - why did i keep thinking of ninjas when i read this?
posted by klik99 at 1:29 AM on February 12, 2005


Via 43folders sideblog? I'm just sayin', that is where I saw it and I sorta though we did attribution.
posted by fixedgear at 1:51 AM on February 12, 2005


Saydur claims, "However, even if you're poor, if you're willing to screw over anyone you have ever known without a twinge of guilt, and dedicate your entire life to it, you too can become powerful."

Advising against death sentence clemency requests without even including exculpatory evidence, perjuring yourself when asked about how you got your rich-but-dim friend out of jury duty that would lead to questions about his own DUI, and concluding that your friend could authorize torture or even ignore the laws he had scorn to "protect and defend" isn't screwing anyone over! It's public service!

Anyway, Orrin Hatch told me that you just hate Abu Gonzales because he's Hispanic!

When will you librul racists understand that it's their up-from-poverty biography, and the color of their skin, not their conduct or the content of their character, that counts?

STFU libruls, it's Republicans like Orrin Hatch who really believe in Affirmative Action!
posted by orthogonality at 2:28 AM on February 12, 2005


Greene also wrote The Art of Seduction which is much more creepy than his power book.
posted by stbalbach at 7:16 AM on February 12, 2005


didn't this used to be called "how to win friends and influence people?"
posted by es_de_bah at 7:57 AM on February 12, 2005


People that follow those laws are usually doomed to failure in large successful organizations. How and why?
Because in large productive and functional organizations, work is done by forming teams (or communities). Machiavellian types get isolated from the teams as being untrustworthy ... sure they might get a single project, but if they deliver the project but alienate the team in doing so, they're screwed on project number two.
Here's another way of looking at it. How far in the MeFi ranks do you think someone employing those methods would rise and for how long?
They would not get far of course. Look at Jessamyn as an example. She got to her "power position" by employing an almost opposite approach, and I doubt Matt would ever bestow power on someone that didn't have broad support from the community. That process can also be true in real life.
posted by forforf at 8:41 AM on February 12, 2005


The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of Mirror Effect.

What horseshit.
posted by nj_subgenius at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2005


Well, hell. I read the first five laws and realized I've violated all of them in the last 24 hours alone. It's not that I can't see the practical applications, but...I just don't care. This book would have come in handy in middle school, though. That's really the target audience--people with the emotional and social sophistication of 7th graders.
posted by apis mellifera at 8:49 AM on February 12, 2005


Via 43folders sideblog? I'm just sayin', that is where I saw it and I sorta though we did attribution.

No, for me it's via del.icio.us. Thus, no attribution. Also:
Law 7
Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit
posted by swift at 8:53 AM on February 12, 2005


I love it how some of the rules are outright contradictory

all of living is a paradox.
posted by quonsar at 8:59 AM on February 12, 2005


This book would have come in handy in middle school, though. That's really the target audience--people with the emotional and social sophistication of 7th graders.
posted by apis mellifera at 8:49 AM PST on February 12

===============
I've worked in cube farms for over 20 years. I've come to the conclusion that corporate offices are little more than glorified 7th grade study-halls (the clicks, schadenfreude, back-stabbing, scapegoating, pettiness, etc.)--and that many people never develop emotionally past the 7th grade.
posted by r3rrr at 1:24 PM on February 12, 2005


apis mellifera: That's really the target audience--people with the emotional and social sophistication of 7th graders.

So immensely true. Psychopaths are essentially people who never leave the narcissism of infancy or early childhood, when people doted on your every need, when merely the act of crying got you whatever you wanted- attention, food, cleaning, etc.

I sadly have come to believe that the large mass of humanity never, ever leaves those first few years of dehumanizing narcissim. We're all mini-hitlers inside, cocoons of evil waiting to burst open.

Anyway, people who follow these laws- i.e., borderline sociopaths- get found out eventually; but amazingly, in corporations, even successful ones, they often retain their positions of influence because they "manage up" exceedingly well. Their minions often see right through them, even if they don't have the DSM IV lingo to label them. The Enron gang was replete with them. As r3rrr suggests, most people seem to be stuck in the middle-school frame, and our various groupings, like workplaces, just echo that same "Lord of the Flies" banality of evil.

Interestingly, my newest boss at work, who's been there since about June/July, tried to be all "leaderly" when he arrived. He had me read (technically re-read, since I read it when I was young) "How to Win Friends and Influence People", which is really hundreds of pages to say "just be a decent, genuine, kind person, and people will like you and want to be around you". I agree with most of it, actually, since in a weird way it's almost a Christian tome; it suggests fundamentally to sincerely and selflessly be kind and complimenting to people around you, especially those who are most difficult at first.

My boss then asked that I read the 48 Laws of Power. I looked them up online, got about half a page into them, and said "This is horrible! It's the exact opposite of HtWFaIP, and is almost a handbook to being evil!".

That he recommended such a book made me see my new manager in a different light, and I believe my snap judgments then have been only confirmed over time. He's like a shorter, older Napolean Dynamite; juvenile obsession with power and domination, yet despite his talk and knowledge of things like "48 Laws of Power", he's utterly and completely weak and easily overrun.
posted by hincandenza at 1:31 PM on February 12, 2005


I don't see any law of power about keeping a sockful of horse manure handy.
Boy, that's something I wouldn't want to be hit with.
A man with a sockful of crap is a man to be reckoned with.
The only more dangerous man would be a man who could sell a sockful of crap.
That's no analogy to what's happening here or anything.

I'm just sayin'

I mean think about it, you put a sockful of crap on e-bay, that's one thing - like that grilled cheese sandwich with the virgin mary on it.
But put that thing in a showroom or some sort of convention and you pull off selling it....well, that's just the sort of thing to be worried about.

I've always thought true power came from cooperation and agreement.
Kinda like improv comedy more than say the tit-for-tat program.

But yeah, threatening to hit someone with a sockful of crap, that's pretty serious too.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:25 PM on February 12, 2005


By 'here' I mean within the list of the laws of power.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:26 PM on February 12, 2005


Yeeesssss nj_subgenius, it is indeed horseshit. You and I think very much alike, my friend. (Mwah ha ha ha ha)
posted by Scoo at 2:28 PM on February 12, 2005


"A powerful person is one who brings the past to an outcome, settling all its unresolved issues. A strong person is one who carries the past into the future, showing that none of its issues is capable of resolution. Power is concerned with what has already happened; strength with what has yet to happen. Power is finite in amount. Strength cannot be measured, because it is an opening and not a closing act. Power refers to the freedom persons have within limits, strength to the freedom persons have with limits.

Power will always be restricted to a relatively small number of selected persons. Anyone can be strong.

Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do as I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them." -- Finite and Infinite Games, James P Carse.
posted by Ritchie at 2:37 PM on February 12, 2005


I've worked in cube farms for over 20 years. I've come to the conclusion that corporate offices are little more than glorified 7th grade study-halls

We call our place of employment 'high school with paychecks.' Cool kids, in groups, stoners, jocks, cheerleaders...they are all represented.
posted by fixedgear at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2005


I love that book Ritchie
BTW - speaking of horseshit salesmen you'd kinda figure the gubbmit would get in on it somehow first.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:17 PM on February 12, 2005


Haha- from that horseshit salesman article:

Ask any elementary school pupil where manure comes from, and in all likelihood the correct answer will be provided: a farm.

Um, when I was in elementary school, I would've said a cow's ass, not a farm.
posted by Monday at 8:22 PM on February 12, 2005


48 Laws is a horrible book. The practices described are awful. Decent people don't actively work to live by the 48 Laws.

But I'll bet dollars to donuts that every one of us recognizes those "Laws" being used in real life. Everyone knows a toady, a ladder-climber, an ass-kisser, a back-stabber.

So the 48 Laws isn't so much a guide on how to live your life, as a way of identifying people's (purposeful or not) malicious behaviours, and perhaps dealing with them more effectively.

IMO.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 AM on February 13, 2005


the book (The 48 Laws of Power) is also very much worth reading.

God, I hope you mean 'worth reading to get a better idea what paltry little assholes are out there,' or something.

I agree with the comments above that this is a really sad statement about our culture. That such narcissistic, selfish, small-minded attitudes can be not only supported, but often touted as the only alternative to a life of slavery or dronism really reflects poorly on our current capacity to understand human interaction.
posted by mdn at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2005


But the point is that there are paltry little assholes out there. And some of them are bosses or fellow employees. 48 Laws gives you some sort of idea of how these creeps operate. With that knowledge, you can recognize when you're being gamed with, and counter it.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:29 PM on February 13, 2005


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