80 pages 2 hours read

Robert Greene

The 48 Laws Of Power

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1998

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Laws 17-32

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Law 17 Summary: “Keep Others In Suspended Terror: Cultivate An Air of Unpredictability”

As humans are creatures of habit, your predictable behaviour gives others a sense of control and therefore power over you. In contrast, when you are deliberately unpredictable, you cause others to wear themselves out trying to understand your actions rather than strategizing against you.

Throughout history, the powerful have struck without warning in order to retain the initiative and keep others in fear. Greene highlights that unpredictability is “not only a weapon of terror,” but one that can attract interest toward you as “people will talk about you, ascribe motives and explanations that have nothing to do with the truth, but that keep you constantly in their minds” (242).

However, predictability can also be a potent weapon, as people can be lulled by your routines into thinking they are safe and then you can surprise them with an unpredictable move. Unpredictability should also be waged with caution by those in subordinate positions, as it may keep superiors from promoting you.

Law 18 Summary: “Do Not Build Fortresses To Protect Yourself—Isolation Is Dangerous”

Greene judges that safety and security of position lies not in isolation, which “cuts you off from valuable information […] makes you conspicuous and an easy target” but in putting yourself at the center of public life, mingling amongst allies (245).