Sunday, December 24, 2006

The 48 Laws of Power

by Robert Greene
Laws 6-13

Apparently, during the year that I spent in Japan The 48 Laws of Power became extremely popular, especially among those in the hip-hop community. This was all news to me, particularly since I'd bought the book about six months before I left the States and hadn't found it terribly interesting. I'd made it to Law 5 ("So Much Depends On Reputation - Guard It With Your Life") and decided that I could wait until I returned from Japan to finish it. Well, I'm back now and I'm determined to finally finish it. Strangely enough, I'm finding it more interesting reading the second time around, but maybe not for the reasons that have made it so popular.

I'm less interested in the Laws themselves than I am in the history that Greene uses to illustrate those laws. Even if I do think that most of the Laws are little too cutthroat for my idealistic tastes, I love reading about the disastrous love affairs of Lola Mendez, the double-dealings of Talleyrand, and the gullibility of Al Capone. The only explanation I have for this is that, having studied Classical Civilization for four years, it makes sense that I would find the story of the Corinthian and Corcoran ambassadors at Athens more interesting and, to me at least, more informative than the law itself ("Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal To People's Self-Interest - Never To Their Mercy Or Gratitude").

As for the Laws themselves, well I've already stated that I think I'm a little too idealistic to fully appreciate their feasibility and usefulness. There are certainly some Laws I can appreciate ("Law 10: Infection: Avoid The Unhappy And The Unlucky" and Law 13: (see above) for instance). But most of the Laws I find too ambiguous and too dependent upon your own particular situation and the people with whom you are dealing to be of any use at all. Few of any of the laws are infallible. In fact, the only one that is infallible so far is Law 10 (see above) according to Greene himself.

The one thing that Greene has managed to impress upon me so far is something I knew before I even picked up the book. That is that attaining and keeping power is difficult, arduous, and, at times, dangerous work. I can understand the reasons why someone would like to have the kind of power that Greene discusses in the 48 Laws. After all, we all like to have at least a little power over ourselves and others. But to attain the kind of power it takes to reach "Master" status just seems like too much manipulative, unhappy work to me. There never seems to be a point at which you're allowed to just enjoy your life and your position. During Law 11 ("Learn To Keep People Dependent On You") Greene writes, "You cannot rest at ease, and what good is power if it brings you no peace?" Amen, Greene. Amen. That's the kind of law I can get behind.

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