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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)

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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.

203 of 213 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.

33 of 35 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.

40 of 43 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.

9 of 9 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.

20 of 22 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.

112 of 134 people found this review helpful

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Horrible book

This is the dumbest book I've ever ever made the sad mistake about purchasing (or using a credit upon). Greene picks a bunch of random stories about people he liked an attempts to draw lessons from them. There's no cohesion to his lessons, no reasoning behind his choice of what are at best amusing anecdotes to base his lessons, and therefore no point to his book. Don't buy! If you want to learn how to be deceptive, read The Prince, The Art of War, or even Game of Thrones. Those are ammoral books with entertainment value also.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Surface Readings and Incoherence: Not my favorite.

I picked up this book expecting a discussion of power: from where it is derived, how it is exercised, what of our assumptions about power have held up while others have not.
What I got wasn't that. What I got was an occasionally incoherent ramble (protect your reputation at all cost, no really; simultaneously do Anything to get noticed, doesn't matter if you look bad). When the book isn't being inconsistant, it's terribly shallow, using very flimsy great man readings of history to support its points (I'm sorry, suggesting I behave as Louis XVI only sounds good when you don't think about it). And all of this is framed by an opening argument that everyone does this, fighting for power is unavoidable, and so you should learn how to fight for it "properly", at least. Which felt manipulative and cheap, which I'm coming to realize isn't something limited to the opening of this book.
I may someday finish this book. But it seriously didn't impress me, and it would have to pause shortly after I finished listening and go "did we scare off the uncommited? sweet, here's some real analysis" to get me reading again. And even then I'd be pissed that wasn't at the front of the book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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I Feel So Powerful Now

My god, I can do anything. I just left my wife and had my boss give me a raise. I'm telling you, the instructions in this book work.

3 of 3 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.

6 of 7 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.

4 of 4 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.

10 of 12 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 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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • david
  • 07-22-16

the degree of mind games. should be the name

good book the only reason I do not give this book 5 stars is because I think it drags on abit. I think the point of each law could be explained with a more shorter direct explanation. but in all a good book.

3 of 4 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.

12 of 18 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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  • C4NH4M
  • 11-29-17

to be read

this was a fascinating listen and cover a lot of areas of modern day and past days

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  • Yanbo.Hu
  • 10-31-17

Great book!

I have listened this whole book on a long plane journey and I felt the moment I got off the plane, I was a different person. It makes me stronger, able to withdraw emotion from unnecessary distractions.

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  • Vicente
  • 10-04-17

Interesante

En ocasiones un poco repetitivo. pero lleno de historias con lecciones útiles y absolutamente vigentes.

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  • Daniel
  • 09-05-17

Real information

This book says things how they are. Unlike other self help books that say nice things but mean nothing, this book has real substance with references to back up every point and counter point it makes. You must however be intelligent to understand this book. It is not for the stupid.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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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  • 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

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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.

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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.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-12-17

Excellent learning and entertaining

I need to listen again as very long and hard to retain but great stories and I did love it

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  • Morgana
  • 02-05-17

Excellent

A wonderful voice and a very empowering book. Nice work Audible. I will listen to this again when traveling on long hauls!

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  • Sarah
  • 08-22-16

Excellent

Would you listen to 48 Laws of Power again? Why?

Yes, It changed my life

What other book might you compare 48 Laws of Power to, and why?

Mastery, Art of Seduction etc - other R Greene books

What does Richard Poe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Good narrator

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Amazing

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-14-16

The best book for how to live your best life

I have now purchased the hard copy and am enjoying the lessons even more, if that is possible. Unbelievably well-researched and written superbly.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Kyle
  • 04-01-17

Too long, not interesting enough

Pretty good but not great. 24 hours is a long time to hear about laws of power. I wouldn't recommend it

0 of 2 people found this review helpful