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Publisher's 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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

560 of 593 people found this review helpful

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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.

129 of 140 people found this review helpful

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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.

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • DC
  • Davis, CA United States
  • 03-18-16

Learn from lessons from the past. Great narration!

This book tells a story of lessons that can be learned from examples of things that have happened in history. All of the lessons revolve around a theme of what you should and shouldn't do to put yourself in the best position for power. A little philosophical, but if you enjoy philosophy you will like that piece of it. You don't have to have ambitions of being a power monger to get a lot out of this book. It may make you re-think how you approach things on a day to day basis. It's a little long, but it found it to be engaging and enjoyable the whole way thru.

85 of 94 people found this review helpful

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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.

64 of 73 people found this review helpful

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Lessons To Learn

Whether you intend to use the lessons outlined in this book or not, it would behoove you to know them.

36 of 41 people found this review helpful

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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.

40 of 47 people found this review helpful

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Interesting stories blur into a useless flood

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 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 about the few millennia enough 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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Was Hoping for a Simpler Approach

Once you get beyond 10 laws of anything, what do you expect? This book is much more of an exhaustive treating of how power works than a "how to be powerful" self-help book. And the lesson the listener quickly learns is that power is highly situational. The laws of power are not mutually exclusive. They overlap in a complex landscape in which the author shares many stories about how things can go wrong. Any one law is later refuted by another law and it is never simple to know which one is the better way.

This is not lost on the author. I believe this is much more of a reference book. An encyclopedia of power that one should keep handy and review every once in a while. Listening to it, front-to-back is not the best way to approach and appreciate this book.

57 of 69 people found this review helpful

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The face of human tragedy smiles

This book would be easier to enjoy if it were written as a study in how people attain power, rather than a how-to guide. Not once is it the least bit apologetic or remorseful as it urges you on down the road of complete sociopathy.

At its least harmful, this book merely describes how to pander to the worst aspects of human nature, such as "don't outshine or criticize your master", "don't speak your mind" and just generally "be as fake as possible". And to some extent I can understand this - you do what you have to do, right? It's not your fault if the people around you are judgmental twats or your master is an insecure selfish asshole. And if you wanna attain power in order to change the world for the better, then you can't act like a saint all the time, right? On the other hand, it doesn't just take a strong leader to effect change. The real difference between "better" and "worse" societies lies not in their laws, but in their people. And to attain a society of (intellectually and ethically) better people, it requires people from every social stratum being the best person they can possibly be.

(Also, improved material conditions are a big factor here, but it's not the only factor.)

Let's take science, for instance - do we want a scientific community of rational, enlightened people who put the truth above all, who, while having the same kinds of human flaws as everyone else, do their best to overcome these flaws? Or do we want a scientific community where no one speaks up against whatever unfairness or incorrectness they perceive, where everyone is afraid to step out of line? Because that's exactly the kind of attitude that this book promotes (again, at its least harmful). Everyone is a yes man, unless it is in their own selfish interests not to be.

Also, most people who attain power probably set out to do good, but then end up like everyone else in their position. No one is qualified to evaluate whether they themselves will be better than other powerful people, so the excuse of wanting to attain power so you can do good later doesn't do much to justify the means. I'm not saying you have to be perfect all the time. If you're a politician, just be more honest (or whatever other positive trait) than the politicians around you and reward honesty in colleagues and subordinates (and obviously do your best to not be fooled by fake honesty like this book describes), and you'll have influenced the culture of politics in a positive way.

Also, this book always assumes the worst about everyone. I think most professors would encourage rather than be offended by criticism from their Ph.D. students, and I don't think they'd be concerned about being outshone. And this book says that arguing for your point of view is a bad strategy because you'll win over some but offend many more, but with people being far more intelligent today than in centuries past due to the Flynn effect, and with modern education encouraging argumentation and critical thinking, I don't think this is true anymore. At the very least it's far less true than it once was.

The book also says "don't overstep your bounds", and gives an example of a king who had a crown-keeper and a coat-keeper. The crown-keeper's only task was to handle the crown, but he once saw his king sleeping in the garden without a coat, and placed his own coat over the king to keep him warm as it was getting cold. The coat-keeper was punished for negligence, and the crown-keeper was beheaded. Here the book literally assumes the worst. Your employer may be a psychopathic evil tyrant, therefore, never do more than you are assigned to do.

At its worst, this book explicitly encourages you to commit any horrendous act you can possibly gain power from. Steal, leech off of, and take credit for your friends' hard work! Ruin others' reputation for your own benefit! Sacrifice your friends as scapegoats to save your own skin!

(Also in arguing for that last thing, it quoted some ancient guy saying "I would rather betray the whole world than let the world betray me" like that guy's a fucking role model. Is the author actively trying to say the most fucked up shit imaginable?)

Law 15 is "Crush your enemy totally". This might be useful in some situations if you're a medieval king at war, but what if you're running for president of your neighborhood association? Should you crush your rivals completely? Manipulate their kids to hate them, plant child porn on their computer, burn their house down and frame them for insurance fraud? Again, this book is completely unapologetic. It insists that power games are amoral, and never pays lip service to the idea that maybe some things are just fucked up to do. It doesn't say "for medieval kings it was often a prudent strategy to crush their enemies completely". It says to crush your enemies, completely. Out of all the people who have enemies or rivals today, how many do you think are even close to warranted to crush them completely?

While morally reprehensible to the extreme, this book also has some flaws in its reasoning. First of all there is no empirical data whatsoever. Main points of each law are backed up by anecdote and sometimes argumentation of varying quality, but lots of details are merely stated in a way that sounds convincing without being motivated at all. There was also plenty of advice that appeared contradictory to what had been said earlier

I get that some things are just very hard to study scientifically, but surely there are plenty of things to be said about power that can and have been studied, and that have plenty of overlap with what is being discussed here. Power has much to do with the human mind and ways in which it is irrational, and there's plenty of data on that that could have been woven into this book. I also get that you can't argue incessantly for every little detail, but at points it feels like the author wasn't trying hard enough. Also, this probably happened a lot more than I noticed, because it's easier to notice the lack of argumentation (or the bad argumentation) when you don't already agree.

At one point the book said to seem like your success comes from talent rather than hard work, and it motivated this by some seemingly sound but rather arbitrary reasoning. I could just as well make up some reason for the opposite view; you should downplay your talent because it's a lot harder to become talented than hard working, so people will be jealous of your talent but not your hard work. Which of these hypotheses is true probably depends a lot on the culture in as well as your specific situation, so the book shouldn't just authoritatively state "do this" as if it were a general law.

Still, for all its flaws, this book contains valuable insight into the world of power games, so I do not regret reading it.

Verdict: 60%, or 2.4 on a 0-4 scale, or 3.4 rounded to 3 on a 1-5 scale.

156 of 193 people found this review helpful

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  • Santiago
  • 10-17-16

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.

25 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • biscuitfiend
  • 06-23-16

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.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • catrix
  • 08-19-16

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.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Joshua Offer
  • 11-30-15

Could easily turn you into a megalomaniac!

Great analysis of the rise and fall of power throughout history. Insightful tidbits for thought. Brilliantly read. I feel well equipped to take on the world now.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Bernice
  • 07-07-16

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.

14 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Rocky
  • 02-17-17

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • cmj123
  • 03-11-16

Very interesting and insightful

Useful insight to power. Need to rethink the implementation of the laws in my life.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Igor Mota
  • 11-30-18

Great audiobook!

Richard Poe is a genius! Robert Green delivers gracefully! A must listen to audiobook for readers who are looking for a breakdown of power in our world.

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  • danhaddock
  • 11-30-18

Captivating and Historical

Rob green has once again provided great historical examples to make all his points on how to be more powerful in everyday life. But this audiobook!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-21-18

A most for everyone

I spend close to 20years within the 4 walls of class and I don't know much of these laws. I think we should replace conventional education with the teaching of these laws.

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  • blanchard0b
  • 10-12-17

Amazing

Great performance, great content, great author. Amazing sums it up well. Robert Greene is a very good writer and thinker

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Tom
  • 04-23-18

Just try 3 Laws

Where does 48 Laws of Power rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best books, if you're one who strives for a better life

What did you like best about this story?

Wonderfully organised and sequenced

Any additional comments?

Just pick 3 laws that really hit you hard. Try them in your everyday interactions.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • mr
  • 04-03-18

a very interesting book

This book has some great insights into how politics affect your every day life and how a bit of thought about how you operate can have significant impact on your outcomes

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • alexkusuma
  • 09-26-17

Great readings, but extremely outdated

The author just freely interpret historical event into his heart content; some of the laws contradicts the other, Talleyran become his example, in some of his 'law' as he's the perfect example of that law why he was a success; a few "laws" later, Talleyran doing the same thing at the same period of historical time become his model example why he was a failure.
He does have an interesting interpretation of historical events - however, historical events is also a biased documentations of past events; and the writer's interpretation made it even more biased tailored to suits his "laws".
Luckily the reader have a very lovely voice and intonation, which make listening to this book very interesting.
I would consider this a fiction rather than non-fiction; because even that he's using historical facts & events, the interpretation and usage of them as example was up to his heart content rather than as-is.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Justin
  • 10-12-18

outstanding going to listen again right now

was great for an engaging as well as relaxing read for each lesson has multiple short stories of past factual history

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-11-18

Love the narrator's voice

The narrator's voice is a blend of the Game of Thrones' characters Littlefinger and Ser Davos!. Quite ironic, because Game of Thrones is about power. Great book with some interesting short stories. The deceptive and manipulative tactics are a bit controversial, but they certainly give you lots of things to think about.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-07-18

fantastic

narrator - awesome , perfect voice for this audiobook.
the book has great explanation with examples!!!
the interpretation, the reversal of the law
examples from history and many fables .

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Lance Swift
  • 07-26-18

provoking

I was angered at first listening to the first few laws. they are deliberately provoking. the text came across as cokd and arogent. but I came to see it in a different light. it's thought provoking, but don't take it seriously

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-22-17

one of my favourite books

this is such a powerful book it has many great tips that I've been able to apply to my life so many real life examples and quotes from history. I feel like your forehead put a great amount of effort into this book

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-05-17

long but a great resource.

loved it. many very interesting stories and so many strategies.
highly recommended in this game of life we are in.