The 48 Laws of Power
July 12, 2006 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Laws for an Outlaw Culture. Robert Greene is an unlikely guru for the Hip Hip Nation - a geeky white freelance writer & filmmaker. But his 48 Laws of Power have been embraced by the movers & shakers in the Hip Hop scene as their path to personal power. He's also written another book you may have heard of, The Art of Seduction. And he's just started his own blog.
posted by scalefree (27 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Somehow this sentence didn't make it into the post.

Also by Greene: The 33 Strategies of War.
posted by scalefree at 12:02 PM on July 12, 2006

Remember when it was all about "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"?
posted by stinkycheese at 12:42 PM on July 12, 2006

Law 38: Think as you like but behave like others.

That sounds about right.

Neat post.
posted by bardic at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2006

They borrow heavily from Machiavelli in the "Laws".
posted by jam_pony at 1:17 PM on July 12, 2006

Hip Hop Nation, right?

Interesting post.
posted by unwordy at 1:23 PM on July 12, 2006

Wow - the anti-Buddhism.
posted by twsf at 1:29 PM on July 12, 2006

Too bad you have to remove the human to be succesful.
posted by luriete at 1:33 PM on July 12, 2006

I couldn't be bothered to read this and form my own opinion, (too busy with Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy) so I've cribbed one from Kirkus Reviews:

"While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to ``be conspicuous at all cost,' then told to ``behave like others.' More seriously, Greene never really defines ``power,' and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn't. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project. If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it's a brilliant satire."
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:40 PM on July 12, 2006

it's funny that many of these laws advise doing the exact opposite of what many "movers and shakers" in hip hop do: to go around proclaiming that one is the greatest human being who ever walked the earth.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:42 PM on July 12, 2006

I think the joke's on us. The 48 Laws is satire.
posted by zorro astor at 1:45 PM on July 12, 2006

Remember when it was all about "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"?

Yep. I also remember when it was all about "Behold a Pale Horse". That one got namechecked by rappers a lot.

48 Laws of Power is an interesting book, but anybody that takes it as total gospel is probably not gonna be somebody you'd really want to hang out with.
posted by First Post at 1:58 PM on July 12, 2006

While it probably contains some or many things that are unfortunately true about human relationships and what it takes to get ahead, it sure does read like "48 ways to be a utter prick all the time."
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:04 PM on July 12, 2006

Kirkus Reviews being so deep in the music biz game and all.
posted by bardic at 2:07 PM on July 12, 2006

Too bad you have to remove the human to be succesful.

exactly. sometimes when you win, you lose.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2006

(a few of them are true enough, though.)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:36 PM on July 12, 2006

Kirkus Reviews being so deep in the music biz game and all.

Oh noes! My plagiarized insight is irrelevant! *dies*
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:41 PM on July 12, 2006

This guy's philosophy can be summed up thusly:

"Crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of the women."

He's joined the dark side (in his interview he says he can only write when he's angry and his favorite historical people are folks like Napoleon and other mass murderers.)
posted by MythMaker at 4:31 PM on July 12, 2006

Those books are a trip and somewhat (a lot) Machiavellian. If you do read them prepare for a personality crisis.
posted by stbalbach at 4:55 PM on July 12, 2006

errr...shouldn't it be:

"Conan, what are the good things in life?"
"To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentatiions of their women"

On a different note, the book cribbed alot from various translations of Chinese fables and tales not to mention the _Romance of the Three Kingdoms_ and _Outlaws of the Marsh_ I remember thinking, "Wow, he totally cribbed this!"
posted by jadepearl at 5:04 PM on July 12, 2006

Sun Tzu wants most of his book back.

Also, following The 48 Laws of Power sounds like a great way to get Tupac'ed.
posted by loquacious at 5:49 PM on July 12, 2006

The 48 Laws is most useful when used to understand WTF is up with that arsehole over in accounting.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:28 PM on July 12, 2006

Hmmm, this may explain why a coworker has been reading these books along with Art of War and.... The Game.
posted by melt away at 6:50 PM on July 12, 2006

And gawd, go look at the (retina-scorching) website for _The Art of Seduction_. In Section 4, "Moving in for the Kill" there's a special chapter called "Isolating the Victim." It talks about removing your, ahem, beloved's support structures in order to mimimize resistance to your overtures. Breathtaking. This man deserves a lifelong case of amoebic dystentery.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:25 AM on July 13, 2006

These kinds of ideas are always predicated on the concept that you do what someone else won’t. But what if there is someone who will? And what if he’s much better at it than you? I remember talking to someone - seems like it’s always the ineffectual types - who was advocating a similar sort of philosophy. It’s all about power stuggle, etc. etc. So I asked him: “Well, I disagree with you. So, given your ideas, why don’t I kill you now?” Since I was quite capable of such a thing, not only in ability but in temperament, he couldn’t come up with an answer to that one from within that world view. ‘Samurai’ my ass.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2006

jadepearl, I was thinking of Ghengis Khan (who was quoted in Conan), but I looked it up, and you're right, it's "their"...

I don't speak Mongol, so I suspect he said something similar...
posted by MythMaker at 4:52 PM on July 13, 2006

Er, jadepearl, he openly cribs from those sources, and many others. I'm not the greatest fan of Greene, but his claim to "authority" in these matters is that he illustrates every "law" or "rule" with sourced examples from literature and history. His bibliography makes a pretty good stand-in for a "Great Works of Western Civilisation" list, which makes sense, since he studied classics in university. His reading of many of those works is selective, but not as bad as the usual self-help book.

Overall, the books aren't bad. They aren't academic, nor are they particularly concerned about morality, and a lot of douches read them (and the Art of War by Sun-Tzu, and the Prince, by Machiavelli, to point out how badly any book can be misread) and think they've suddenly become masters of humanity.

I found them more thought-provoking than useful - I'd often read a chapter and think about _why_ this strategy was claimed to work, or why it would be endorsed by thinker X (Kierkegaard's Seducer's Diary is a major source for Greene, as is Thucydides). That sort of reflection is far more interesting than finding out that isolation is a key part of seduction in Robert Greene's view, or whatever else.

On a final note, loquacious, he's almost certainly referencing the 36 Strategies, a collection of Chinese folk wisdom.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:14 PM on July 13, 2006

I'll second Pseudoephedrine's comments. I have read 48 Laws and found them useful and inspiring— especially the stories and cultural references that go along with the basic discussion of each law. But they are not the sort of thing that you take as gospel, nor the sort of thing that you use on friends and family. The laws are sort of Design Patterns for situations where conflict and power struggle are unavoidable. Sometimes, such situations are unavoidable because of the conniving cretin who works down the hallway from you; and then knowing the laws and their application is simply a matter of good self-defense.
posted by Ironwolf at 1:49 AM on July 14, 2006

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