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.
Here are the 48 Laws of Power:
- Never outshine the master
- Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies
- Conceal your Intentions
- Always Say Less than Necessary
- So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life
- Court Attention at all Cost
- Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit
- Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary
- Win through your Actions, Never through Argument
- Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
- Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
- Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim
- When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest,
Never to their Mercy or Gratitude
- Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
- Crush your Enemy Totally
- Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor
- Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability
- Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous
- Know Who You’re Dealing with – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person
- Do Not Commit to Anyone
- Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark
- Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power
- Concentrate Your Forces
- Play the Perfect Courtier
- Re-Create Yourself
- Keep Your Hands Clean
- Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following
- Enter Action with Boldness
- Plan All the Way to the End
- Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
- Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal
- Play to People’s Fantasies
- Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
- Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated like one
- Master the Art of Timing
- Disdain Things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best Revenge
- Create Compelling Spectacles
- Think as you like but Behave like others
- Stir up Waters to Catch Fish
- Despise the Free Lunch
- Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes
- Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter
- Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others
- Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect
- Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once
- Never appear too Perfect
- Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for; In Victory, Learn when to Stop
- Assume Formlessness
The book takes each "law" in turn and gives historical examples of those who follow the law and fail to follow the law. You’ll quickly see that the laws of power aren’t really laws – they’re more like principles that will help you in the art of gaining and exercising power. I don’t mean to suggest that the laws are incorrect – they’re absolutely correct – they’re just not laws.
I suppose it’s true for all large organizations, but these laws certainly apply my job. I get to live these every day.
Even outside of large organizations, the laws apply. Greene uses the example of Tesla and Edison to illustrate several of the laws. Tesla was the better inventor, but you’ve heard of Edison because Edison understood power.
Here are a few select quotes for your enjoyment:
A sharply defined enemy is a far stronger argument for your side than all the words you could possibly put together.
. . .
Another strategy of the supposed non-player is to demand equality in every area of life. Everyone must be treated alike, whatever their status and strength. But if, to avoid the taint of power, you attempt to treat everyone equally and fairly, you will confront the problem that some people do certain things better than others. Treating everyone equally means ignoring their differences, elevating the less skillful and suppressing those who excel. Again, many of those who behave this way are actually deploying another power strategy, redistributing people’s rewards in a way that they determine.
. . .
Society craves larger-than-life figures, people who stand above the general mediocrity.
. . .
Alter your style and language according to the person you are dealing with. The pseudo-belief in equality, the idea that talking and acting the same way with everyone, no matter what their rank, makes you somehow a paragon of civilization is a terrible mistake.
. . .
Excuses and apologies are much too blunt tools for this delicate operation; the powerful avoid them. By apologizing you open up all sorts of doubts about your competence, your intentions, any other mistakes you may not have confessed. Excuses satisfy no one and apologies make everyone uncomfortable. The mistake does not vanish with an apology; it deepens and festers.
. . .
The truly powerful, on the other hand, seem never to be in a hurry or overburdened. While others work their fingers to the bone, they take their leisure. They know how to find the right people to put in the effort while they save their energy and keep their hands out of the fire.
. . .
Most people’s problems have complex causes: deep-rooted neurosis, interconnected social factors, roots that go way back in time and are exceedingly hard to unravel. Few, however, have the patience to deal with this; most people want to hear that a simple solution will cure their problems. The ability to offer this kind of solution will give you great power and build you a following.
. . .
Most people believe that they are in fact aware of the future, that they are planning and thinking ahead. They are usually deluded: What they are really doing is succumbing to their desires, to what they want the future to be.
. . .
Words like “freedom,” “options,” and “choice” evoke a power of possibility far beyond the reality of the benefits they entail.
. . .
The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes from disenchantment.
. . .
The fact diat die past is dead and buried gives you die freedom to reinterpret it. To support your cause, tinker with die facts. The past is a text in which you can safely insert your own lines.
. . .
Actually, however, power has changed in its numbers but not in its essence. There may be fewer mighty tyrants commanding the power of life and death over millions, but there remain thousands of petty tyrants ruling smaller realms, and enforcing their will through indirect power games, charisma, and so on. In every group, power is concentrated in the hands of one or two people, for this is one area in which human nature will never change: People will congregate around a single strong personality like planets orbiting a sun.