I have a love-hate relationship with this book. On the one hand, it’s an instructional guide on how to be an asshole. And on the other, it reveals the assholes’ ways to protect the good. The 48 Laws of Power is entirely unsavory, fascinating, and useful.
Each of the 48 Laws is brought to life by the schemer that mastered it–Machiavelli, Talleyrand, Bismarck, Catherine the Great, Mao, Kissinger, Haile Selassie etc. The book offers a candid look into the mindsets and strategies used by leaders and wannabe leaders to gain power.
The structure is incredibly clever: Each chapter provides examples of an application of the law, along with “keys to power,” and applications to achieve the opposite outcome, where useful. I love the insightful quotes featured in the margins and the brief words / sayings designed to suggest an image and/or cause a visceral reaction, such as:
The Gods on
Looking down on
human actions from the
clouds, they see in advance the
endings of all the great dreams that
lead to disaster and tragedy. And
they laugh at our inability to see beyond
the moment, and at how we delude ourselves.
The key theme throughout the book is self-control–being aware of yourself as an actor and taking control of your appearance and emotions. This is sage advice for any human being. In fact, you’ll find plenty of great advice in The 48 Laws of Power–lots of it around gaining control of oneself and mastery of one’s emotions. This is not unlike the core tenet of another book (one of my favorites), “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. The difference between the two books, however, is that one (Power) is focused on how to become “evil” and the other (The Obstacle) is focused on how to become “good.”
We all have free will to choose. For the sake of our planet and humanity, let’s hope the majority choose that latter.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson