The 48 Laws of Power: Unpacking all the controversies.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a classic book that was first published and printed in 1998 then reprinted again over the years. Even though this is an old book, it is still relevant today year 2020 and in this article, I will write a 2020 review of the book.
Going through the book reviews of this book on the internet, I was unsatisfied with them because most were summaries (regurgitation of the author’s words for the purpose of skimming the book), whilst some people’s personal views on the book (customers of the book) took a linear and short approach to explain this book.
Since this book is long, If you would like a summary of it, check it out here from the blog grahamman.net. I found this the best summary of the book. All the laws are summarized here.
In this article, l unpack the controversies surrounding this book, placing it in context to how it has shaped my perception about life and my attempts to forging the kind of woman I want to be.
Now, without further ado let us get to the book review.
*The 48 Laws of power by Robert Greene is a book written about laws to attain power.
*The book, nonetheless, it is open to many interpretations regarding power and what power is, nor means.
What is the purpose of the 48 laws of power and what does it teach?
1. The art of controlling your emotions and establishing discipline.
What this book challenges us to do is to get ourselves out of predicaments we find ourselves in, and look from the outside how we react to situations.
Emotions are tools that are to be used wisely and we should have control over them, not the other way around.
If we could master our emotions, we could possess so much power over our lives and achieve many of our goals.
By mastering our emotions, we could have the discipline to understand when; how, and why to react to circumstances.
The structure of the book is set to also inspire balance when using the laws.
The structure of the book is like this:
**The Law-Here the law is given.
**The Transgression of the Law-Here the author tells the downside of when the law is used wrongly.
**Observation of the Law-Here the author tells the good/ outcome when the law is used properly.
**Keys to Power- Here it is a further analysis of the law’s use.
**Reversal-Here the author gives precautionary advice against the use of the law and emphasizes proper use and balance of the law.
You never want to over-do or underdo any of these laws because overdoing will lead to destruction and loss of good relationships in your life.
Overlooking nor underdoing these laws too will also lead to you being taken for a po*s, people will play you on your weaknesses, use you only for their good and it will leave you emotionally drained and unable to cope.
Master your emotions. Know when to strike and how because no situation is like the last one, always remember that.
3. Reinforce confidence and control over your life and deeds
For someone who is yet to work in the corporate world or generally work and get out to mingle with other people, this book is for us, for us to learn to never take all things personal, to learn to be bold—especially when negotiating (haha), learn our worth and learn to fake it till we make it with our personas and identity.
Apparently in the next sequel of this book called the 50th Law written by 50 Cent (the rapper) and Robert Greene; it is said here in this blog grahamman.net that you forge yourself to be who you want to be, no one wakes up fearless and successful, you forge it.
4. Hacking your emotions for coping mechanism purposes; (reinforce and inspire a sense of control over yourself)
We all want to feel in control and that is what gives us a sense of power and relief—Its human nature and its also called discipline.
This book gives a guide to do so and reinforce childhood teachings which many of us got from our parents and elders on dealing with challenges in everyday life.
Growing up, I grew up a fragile child. I lived in a house whereby we were 6. My 3 brothers, my mother, father, and me.
It is said that I did not like it when other people would come to visit and I see unfamiliar faces, I threw bad tantrums and cried a lot and this extended till my young adult years and affected my university years (such a bummer).
Unfortunately, which is a fortune, I have had to grow up, get out of my cocoon and learn to enter and adjust to unfamiliar environments, meaning living with people besides my family.
And this book like many other books that I have read to bolster the move to coping better with tough circumstances I encounter, has set me closer to achieving my goal of learning peopling skills and building sustainable, healthy relationships with others, and cope with the challenges of working and living with other people.
Most of these laws my mother tried teaching me in order to be able to protect myself and guard against disappointment from people and improve my wellbeing, I never understood how to apply them in my life until recently.
5. Helps you be aware of people’s intentions
Living in South Africa, which is a country with high crime rates, I have been a victim of crime and cons which have taught me the hard way that not everyone nice is really nice, sometimes people are nice only for the ends of their means, in this instance, to rob or mug you.
Some people’s niceness is a façade to manipulate others for their own needs only.
6. Help deal with devious and difficult personalities
Sometimes it happens in life that you come across people that think it is cool being devious, rude, and having a despicable attitude towards anyone and everyone or those that are easy prey to prey on.
Law 44 is dedicated to those people and it says: “Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect”.
If someone has a tough time realizing that how they treat others is not cool, sometimes the mirror effect works wonders; give them a piece of their own medicine, exaggerated, and see their reaction to it.
Greene delves into more scenarios of using the mirror effect and states that even the professional field of psychology practice uses this tool to help patients deal/ solve their problems effectively.
7. Power is about a sense of superiority
Charles Darwin documented it in his thesis that in this world, it is “survival of the fittest” and when you are not fit, you will be devoured, not in a literal sense unless—well, you have an encounter with Hannibal Lecture, however, you will be mentally devoured and left depressed.
Therefore, as much as we are all born with human intelligence (higher intelligence); wits and thorough knowledge of oneself and your environment will set you apart from others and will make us fall less prey and victim to other people’s manipulation webs and scheming to abuse others.
I grew up assuming that the only people that have power are people with money only, that is not true, people with manipulation skillset can also have power over you and your well-being.
8. An element of surprise about everything that happens on Earth will dissipate
Once you read this book, you will never again be surprised by everything that happens on Earth, you will understand better human psychology that drives us all to be the way we are and do the things we do be it good or bad.
My experience with the book
When I brought this book 2018, I had bought it for my younger brother who saw it at a bookstore someday we were there accompanying my father.
He came up to me and said to me “oh look at this book, it’s interesting I want it”.
2018 was my first year at university, and so, the following Monday after the weekend we were at the bookstore, I came back home from campus having brought the book for us from campus
I had to read the book 4 times in order to find the profundity I established now.
In my first attempt at reading the book, I did not like it and so I quit it and shoved it at the back of my wardrobe where I keep all my books. The reason I did not like it was that.
- I thought it was a horrible book. Why would you want to learn to manipulate people and tremble and stumble on people’s toes? I thought to myself.
Some laws were great, and I could resonate with them in regards to when and how to use them, nonetheless, I quit the book because I just felt uncomfortable reading it.
- It had many classical stories for each law. I am not much of a fan of fictional works and stories, I am that girl who wants you to go to the moral of the story already (yawn), hence I had a problem with this book.
I like it when a book goes straight to the point and tells the premise and objectives, which this book does, but it first relates the moral of the story with a story/ scenario of a story from classical narratives extracted from many parts around the world and kingdoms.
Hey, after all, I was young then, right?
Can we go with that?🤷♀️
Yes, will go with that. I was young and I did not know better.
We learn better through parables.
- I felt it was unnecessarily long with all those stories.
2nd and 3rd Attempt
I just wanted to complete the book for the sake of finishing the book.
I wanted to establish discipline since my mother observed me and told me that I have a problem with completing a book and that would determine my life-long character.
She said that if I do not learn to finish books, I would be someone who never completes any task and always I will start something, only to quit halfway.
I do not want to be her—that girl, it could never be me, and so on these attempts of reading the book, wanted to read and finish the book to prove my mother in my sub-conscious wrong; that I can finish what I start.
A side note:
I have grown up to not see the need to complete every task I partake, nor a book I read.
Some books really are bad and add no value in my life, so even if I started reading it, it does not mean I should finish it. I have outgrown the need to complete every task I partake. if it’s not worth it—quit it.
The fourth attempt at reading the book was inspired by a video I stumbled upon on YouTube about how rappers use the 48 laws of power—it’s no surprise they resonate with it because this the industry that is famous for having ghostwriters, which applies to law 7 of “Get others to do the work for you but always take the credit”(p 56: 2000).
I am not judging, hey, when people make arrangements and agree to deals, we are not there…but I am just saying🤷♀️…
After this video though, I got aroused to try this read again one more time and see what the hype is about surrounding this book.
Afterward, I then also saw more suggestive pages and reviews and most people on the internet talking about it, sparking up controversies about the book, I thus saw a need from here onwards to read the book for myself and this time read it thoroughly in no rush to complete it so I can be able to dissect and digest it clearly.
And to do all this, I committed myself to read one chapter a day. Then, at night I set time in bed to think about the chapter that I read during the day.
Is the 48 laws of power worth reading?
Definitely is, it will open up your eyes to the real world and you will be able to understand better the real reason we experience the good and the bad in this world and the core of evil that exists around us.
Evil exists because of the need to feel dominant and attain power over others. Evil exists because of the need to be superior over others.
We all possess high intelligence, so if you think you are playing the next person, think again, they might be playing you.
The reason people ba loya (practice witchcraft) is because of the need and desire to control and have power over others, the need to feel in control of another person’s situation.
Other people want to be gods in other people’s lives and have the final say and authority in other people’s lives.
How the 48 laws of power changed my life
*It feels like it has given me the third eye to the real world because now I see and understand better the psychology of human nature.
*I feel empowered knowing what I know in order to take precautions when need be.
*The book has been a supplement to my confidence and self-worth image.
How to read the 48 laws of power
*Read the book with a grain of salt approach.
It is a bit of a hard pill to swallow the contents that are in the book.
Some laws are good, some I just did not understand what they meant and where to apply them in my life.
*Read at your own risk.
I will admit this: I needed a break from reading for a while after reading this book because I got spooked out a little now understanding the book with profundity its objectives.
I got mentally disturbed, merely because: Immediately after I read it, I watched a gruesome documentary about the serial killer named Jeffrey Dahmer (on the 27th of September 2020 on Discovery channel 171, DSTV) which was disturbing as he explained that he attacked and kidnapped young men for sexual pleasure, afterward attempted to turn them into Zombies by drilling holes in their skulls to inject them with chemicals that would keep them partly conscious and submissive, thus, he would be in control of them as though they are his puppet.
Jeffrey says all this in interviews which some are also available on YouTube that he wanted to be the master of his victims.
Jeffrey says that he is the archetype of a child that felt he had no control in his childhood around his environment, and thus, as he grew old, he wanted to fill that gap through his deeds.
The story of this young man however resembles how a lack of discipline and control of our emotions could lead us all into paths of destruction.
You do not have to control other people and you cannot control other people. People will rebel against you.
Look at Apartheid the system, what happened to it?
We need to control how we react and deal with our environments and situations around us.
Read the full story below on Wikipedia.
The 48 laws of power quotes
Below here are some of my favorite quotes from the book that I resonate with and felt the need to focus more on and reinforce in my life
ALWAYS SAY LESS THAN NECESSARY (p 31: 2000)
I realized a while ago that being a blabber mouth, you end up saying stupid things and often times unnecessary details unnoticed, so rather limit it, say what needs to be said and then take some time off and give others opportunity to talk as well and be a listener instead of talker.
WIN THROUGH ACTION, NEVER THROUGH ARGUMENT (p 69: 2000)
The more you do, instead of saying: ‘I will do this’, the more we are winners and achievers and would not feel pressure.
Often, we put pressure on ourselves by talking a lot before we even achieve something, then feel less worthy when things are not happening the time you told people would happen.
We all grew up with the notion: “Actions speak louder than words”. The more we could try this, the more our reputations could have value and worthiness.
INFECTION: AVOID THE UNHAPPY AND UNLUCKY (p 76: 2000)
Really what this law did for me was to inspire me to limit complaining and practice some gratitude daily to become a better person for me and others.
No one situation is the same, some people experience trauma that lingers longer and need strong support from loved ones, and…as for children they need special attention, pay attention when they complain.
In this case though, I want to drive my point using an experience I went through not long in life, an experience of frivolous complaining.
I remember sometime last whereby I had a tendency to complain about my failed relationships and unresolved quarrels with the people in my environment.
I did not take the initiative to confront people I had problems with, I thought magically my problems would go away—they did not, instead I went right deep inside a dark tunnel, constantly brooding and complaining to someone who took it and annoyed them to the core.
I would not be surprised if they distanced themselves from me, but these are some of my great friends and they did not complain about my complaining, nonetheless, eventually I saw how bad habits like this one affect others and attract like-minded people which becomes a never-ending circle of destruction.
I am not saying people should pretend to be happy and bottle up things, but, speaking from a frivolous complainer experience: I do suggest thinking before complaining, once your complaining as an adult is constantly about the same problem over, and over again, then that is a problem that you should rather think of finding solutions to eliminate it.
Nobody likes anyone who is forever complaining about life and just never takes initiate to change or change their situation.
Complainers are just tiresome, they cannot even take a moment to take a deep breath and appreciate Sunrise in the morning.
There comes stages in all our lives whereby we should shed old layers of bad habits and deeds and loved ones and the people we live with have to see a change in us and appreciate our presence, and a presence that is appreciative is whereby someone practices a positive, hopeful and jubilant mindset because behavior is infectious. They say hang out with like-minded people to be inspired.
We all have the blues and it is good to talk sometimes as a form of therapy and to unburden and we should talk with those whom we trust and can help, but never dwell on bad predicaments and memories for too long and to a point where you become a brood and the negatives affect and infect others.
KNOW WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH—DO NOT OFFEND THE WRONG PERSON (137: 2000)
This law says it all, it does not need an explanation. Study your environment so you know which card to play to see desirable results.
RE-CREAT YOURSELF (p 191: 2000)
Never allow people to give you identity and let you conform to their set of standards and image.
And this is what the Feminism, LGBT and other organizations/ groups and movements are trying to establish, they do not want to be boxed into limitations and capabilities of societal standards because of what society has told them to be:
“Understand this: The world wants to assign you a role in life. And once you accept that role you are doomed. Your power is limited to the tiny amount allotted to the role you have selected or have been forced assume” (p 195: 2000)
“The character you seem to have been born with is not necessarily who you are: beyond the character you have inherited, your parents, your friends, and your peers have helped to shape your personality. The Promethean task of the powerful is to take control of the process, to stop allowing others the ability to limit and mold them” (p 195: 2000)
ENTER ACTION WITH BOLDNESS (p 227: 2000)
We all have the instinct to smell in others how they feel, If you demonstrate insecurity or some doubt, we see that, thus, forge some boldness if you don’t got yet to take control of your worth. And see what happens in your life.
Fake this till you make it. Boldness is the reason con artists get away with their crimes. For us—let us try to use for getting promotions, salaries we deserve, the relationships we deserve, etc.
PLAN ALL THE WAY TO THE END (p 236: 2000)
Planning for me feels like giving myself a roadmap to know where I am going and know how to gauge progress.
When you do not have a plan, you will not even see progress and know when to quit when something is not working out. Anthony Robbins once said: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
BE ROYAL IN YOUR OWN FASHION: ACT LIKE A KING TO BE TREATED LIKE ONE (p 282: 2000)
We all know that if you do not take yourself seriously, then that is what you attract unto yourself.
No one else will also take you seriously. We all vibe with your vibe. We follow energy.
MASTER THE ART OF TIMING (p 291: 2000)
Without the art of timing, you will feel like a failure in all that you do.
That is the reason that planning is important, and planning includes mastering timing as well, knowing when to take opportunities and use them to your advantage.
And learning to have patience without panic.
Timing is like surfing, you have a goal to ride a wave but before you could ride the wave, you wait, and wait, and wait some more for the wave, but once you catch it’s a massive win.
DISARM AND INFURIATE WITH THE MIRROR EFFECT (p 376: 2000)
This law I have already put it in context above. It is simple: some people need a taste of their own medicine to reflect on their deeds and see how they feel on others.
*The game of wanting to attain power over others is dangerous, we all should rather work on attaining power over our emotions and reactions to the predicaments we face.
*Always remember though that we are all in the jungle, therefore we are all participants in the game of power tactics whether we like it or not, be it work, home or school.
Remember that the ones that survive are the fittest ones. Gather knowledge, prepare armor, and always stay ready for war.
*Lastly, just read the book if you have not and if you have, share comments below⤵ on your experience with the book