80 pages 2 hours read

Robert Greene

The 48 Laws Of Power

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1998

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Important Quotes

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“Today we face a peculiarly similar paradox to that of the courtier: Everything must appear civilized, decent, democratic, and fair. But if we play by those rules too strictly, if we take them too literally, we are crushed by those around us who are not so foolish.”

(Preface, Page 25)

Greene alerts the reader to the fact that life has not changed since the time of the scheming Renaissance courts. Just like the courtiers, we must appear noble and fair; however, the reality underneath the calm surface is a brutal struggle for power. Greene uses the first-person pronoun “we” to identify with the well-intentioned reader and juxtapose it with the third-person plural referring to those others who are playing a different game. In setting up an “us versus them” mentality, Greene appeals to the reader’s anxiety that others are on a power-trip and will overcome them if they do not keep up. 

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“If the world is like a giant scheming court and we are trapped inside it, there is no use in trying to opt out of the game. That will only render you powerless, and powerlessness will make you miserable. Instead of struggling against the inevitable, instead of arguing and whining and feeling guilty, it is far better to excel at power.”

(Preface, Page 28)

Greene anticipates the morally minded reader’s resistance to viewing life as a power game and encourages them to be realistic. The imagery of entrapment in a scheming court allows the reader no escape from needing to engage with power; while the unattractive option of powerlessness is presented as the only alternative to power games. He then juxtaposes the list of futile methods of struggling against this reality with what he considers the only viable option: excelling at power.