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Summary

Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive, this piercing work distills 3,000 years of the history of power into 48 well-explicated laws. This bold volume outlines the laws of power in their unvarnished essence, synthesizing the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, and other infamous strategists. The 48 Laws of Power will fascinate any listener interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control.

©2000 Robert Greene and Joost Elffers (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

Critic reviews

It's The Rules for suits.... Machiavelli has a new rival. And Sun-tzu better watch his back." ( New York Magazine)

What listeners say about 48 Laws of Power

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Too little nuance

Pros: The book depicts sometimes ugly yet interesting parts of human nature, often conveniently ignored or hidden.

Cons: Some of the examples are old tales with no bearing in reality. There is no unifying set of ideas, but a collection of pieces of advice modeled after most despicable historical figures.

Most importantly, this book lacks the nuance to distinguish pure power struggles from mutually beneficial value creation. Don't believe power games are all there is to life, unless you are one of those who fill the examples in this book: warlords, con artists and politicians.

58 people found this helpful

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excellent

what a thrilling and interesting listen. very dark yet very factual. a useful guide to power in this century

5 people found this helpful

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just another book to manipulate others

Nothing new, very repetitive. But he has a lot of interesting examples from history.

4 people found this helpful

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Lots of anecdotes, not enough evidence.

Good list of ideas but no attempt was made to back any of them up with science or game theory. In many places, laws contradicted with each other and the concept of each law having a 'reversal' was indicitive of the laws being too broad and simplistic.

4 people found this helpful

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Favourite book of all time

I could write 10,000 words about how much I love this book. But I won't

If you struggle to influence people in your life and get your own way. This is the book for you.
Just be open minded to concepts that "seem" new but you always knew in the back of your head.

I've studied this book over and over for over a year and I'm sure you came here because you read how great it is.

And yes. It is all it's cracked up to be and more!

13 people found this helpful

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First book I ever finished. Loved it

Stayed engaged all through. Formless my favourite of all. It goes without saying, careful application of the laws in this day and age is paramount.

3 people found this helpful

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Read it...or don't

This book has made me interested in classical history, when every move was critical to your power and often your survival too. Humans inherently become amoral when they decide to become effective. You're a member of this species, so learn these principles; play or be played.

15 people found this helpful

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Great for be history!

Hard to get into at first, but the author tells great stories. Upon realising that this has nothing to do with my life whatsoever, I enjoyed it for learning about the power plays of famous and not so famous people from history.

9 people found this helpful

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A Despots Guide to Power!

This book is really very interesting. However the examples of power are mainly from Shakespeare and folklore. This book is not scientifically based and although it is engaging and well narrated, the learning is largely negative and refers to battles that occurred hundreds of years ago. This is a despots guide to power.

I gave up after a few hours as I felt my time could better be engaged on a positive learning experience and one that perhaps had more current relevance.

However the book is very interesting.

24 people found this helpful

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the little book of power

hahha... 23 hours short book of power really! Fantastic read! the author shared plenty of stories! Quite rewarding!

2 people found this helpful

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  • beavercopa
  • 02-06-19

Does not resonate with my entrepreneurial goals

Deceptive intentions are just not my way. I love great business recommendations. Second motives will not accomplish anything and karma is real. I will go back to Brian Tracy.

77 people found this helpful

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  • El Barto
  • 29-05-19

NOT a Self Help Book

Perhaps the best title for this book should be “A Con Man’s Primer” or “The Unabridged Encyclopedia of Selfishness.” An interesting look at cons and power plays throughout history, this book takes a totally amoral look at how to win at all costs.

While many of the points brought out through history are fascinating (and do provide some insights into what others may be doing to exert control or power over you), I certainly wouldn’t want to use this book as a guide for my life simply because it lacks any substance that would help you create and sustain a “real connection” with another human being.

I find it interesting that the manuscript quotes several times from the Bible yet teaches a philosophy that is so directly opposed to what is taught there.

This is a book of contradictions (although it refers to several “paradoxes” of power). One law tells you to take all the credit for performance while another encourages you to give your master the credit. Which is it? Yes, the points are well taken when it comes to these paradoxical principles, but mostly you’re left to ask, “So WHEN do I exercise one law over another one?”

In summary, this is primarily an interesting historical read. Yes, it could help you recognize times when others may be trying to exert control or power over you, but that’s about where its usefulness stops.

62 people found this helpful

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  • James Hallberg
  • 03-07-19

Machiavelli would be proud.

great philosophies for evil people. garbage if you have a moral bone in your body.

49 people found this helpful

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  • Gaggleframpf
  • 25-02-16

You don't have to be a psychopath to like this.

This is an absolutely amazing book. It will help you to tell your true friends apart from people who just want to use you. It will tell when to give more to your employer, or when to tone down your enthusiasm. It will warn you about going too far in your quest for power.

If you really are a power-hungry maniac, this book will do just as much to help you reach your goals as it will if you are an average joe with no ambitions. I'm an idealist myself - I like to see the good in everyone and I don't like to think of myself as someone who wants "power" over other people.

But that is not an excuse to avoid encountering the incredibly valuable information in this book. At the very least, it will keep you from making poor moves that will cause you to fall out of favor with others. At the most, you will be able to spot when someone else is playing "the game" and use their techniques against them.

I don't like to play the game myself; I don't think power is a game. But I sure as hell like to watch the people who DO live like it's a game spin their wheels as they try and fail to pin me down and make themselves look totally incompetent in the process.

If you're an honest person and if you think rewards and status should be earned by merit and not by raw power or deception, then your reputation and character will go before you and these laws of power will walk behind you.

Don't use this book to grow in power for power's sake. This is a fool's errand, and ends in your annihilation. Rather learn the laws of power to attain mastery over your own spirit, and to defend against those who would prey upon your honesty and integrity.

1,089 people found this helpful

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  • V. Taras
  • 12-09-18

Interesting stories blur into a useless flood

As I wrote in my review,

The book is a compilation of very interesting stories.
However, after several chapters, all those stories blur into an easily-forgettable flood of dates, names, and facts.

All you will be able to recall a day later that someone killed or betrayed someone, or lied, or spread rumors, or did something else Machiavellian.

What's presented as "Laws" is is a collection of random, often mutually exclusive observations. Some people lied to get to the top, some were articulate and said a lot and tried to be in the public eye. Others got to the top by being secretive and never seen in public. Some were generous and that helped them succeed, others were greedy and ruthless.

The book is definitely worth reading if you just want to hear a bunch of entertaining historic anecdotes. However, unless you're a student of history and know enough history to recognize the names from these stories and put them in context, if you're like most, you'll forget 95% of these stories the moment you move on to the next chapter.

Treat this book as a great collection of interesting historic stories, but do NOT expect that you will receive a practical advice on how to influence others and achieve your goals.

131 people found this helpful

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  • Juan
  • 14-02-16

Good Road Listen

being a trusting person by nature... and working amongst a bunch of sharks. Listening to this has helped me gain perspectives I've never considered.

259 people found this helpful

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  • Fred
  • 25-10-19

long winded Machiavelli

This book has helped me manage power hungry individuals.
This is NOT a book about morals, ethics, and hard work.
This is a book with examples of rulers inviting their adversaries to dinner and killing their entire families.
This is the perfect book for a good hearted person who can not understand why people can be so mean.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Marlon
  • 07-07-16

Interesting

As a Christian I find myself struggling with these laws and approaches to power. Maybe I am naive when it comes to power, or too idealistic. This book seems to outline all the dirty tricks played by politicians to stay in power. The author seems to recommend some of the behavior we naturally disapprove of as an acceptable means to power.

So why did I listen to the whole thing? I thought about returning the book after listening to the first chapter. But I realized that even though I may dislike these "laws of power" they are at play in the world I live in. And even thought I do not believe I will ever live by the majority of these laws, being aware of them has helped open my eyes to what is going on around me.

So I would not highly recommend this book because there is little emphasis, if any, in character. But the book is useful in pointing out how people acquire and maintain power, and there is a benefit to being aware of how power can work.

219 people found this helpful

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  • G. Gregg Petty
  • 22-02-16

They saved the best part for last

I am sure a lot of people will find this book to be cynical in philosophy, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I especially found the 46th and 47th law to be most salient. The reading was done well, and it was a good listen. Probably something that would have to be listened to a few times in order to gather the nuances of what the author is trying to convey, but there is lots of wisdom found in this book. Well done.

69 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 26-06-17

Psychopathy Manual

This book would be more aptly titled: How to be a Psychopath: Strategies of Manipulation and Deceit.

It is an entertaining and useful, yet highly disturbing book. Now that I know the true scope of the drive for power, I see the world through suspicious eyes. If you are someone who seeks power at the expense of all else, this historical guide book will likely thrill you. If you are a normal light hearted good natured sort, you may find this book appalling, as it reads like it was written by the devil himself. Yet you should probably listen to it anyway. If nothing else, it will alert you to the strategies of the wolves around you.

Besides all the rules themselves and the commands to use, manipulate, control, trick and destroy everyone that crosses your path, this book is primarily a collection of historical antidotes. Listening to it will increase your knowledge base of the history of some of the world's most influential power players. It will also help you be alert to such tactics in use in the present.

The narration of this book was perfect. It could not have been done better. The narrator captured the sadistic domineering feel this book requires to a tee. He was engaging and clear with a very agreeable voice and cadence.

115 people found this helpful