A Literary Analysis of Greene’s 48 Laws of power.


“The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene, is a book about the way people have gained power through the ages, and is still relevant in current times. Famous celebrities like Jay Z and 50 Cent, also known as Curtis Jackson, have not only read but reportedly use the concepts gained from the book in their daily lives. In fact, 50 Cent wrote his own version called The 50th Law, which he co-authored with the original writer of “The 48 Laws of Power,” Robert Greene. While 50 Cent’s version is the same book, it is re-written in 50 Cent’s own words and can relate to a broader audience than what Robert Greene had reached. With 50 Cent as the co-author, Greene was able to create a new target audience in minority groups. This is because minorities would easily recognize and read something written by 50 Cent as opposed to Robert Greene (Lynskey).
Reaching this target audience is probably poetic justice for Greene who was inspired to write the book after a falling out with corporate funders while he was a Hollywood writer. Greene felt frustrated at the corporate world and wanted vengeance. He felt that by writing the book, “48 Laws of Power” he would expose all of the corporate lynchpins for what they were; greedy, conniving, unethical people. By knowing the laws of power used against them, ordinary citizens can better defend themselves. Which was the point of writing the book (Lynskey).
The 48 Laws of Power is uniquely laid out because each law is given one at a time and numbered one to forty-eight. There are three trends that reoccur over and over, shown through stories of people. The three trends are: directing others to their own demise, always appeal to others, and make the new leader look good. This is good advice for anyone trying to work his/her way up the corporate ladder.
Robert Greene uses historical references to give the readers examples, on how these 48 laws of power has been applied throughout history. Dating back from Napoleon, to Al Capone you can see how all the laws have been used throughout time.
The book is written in a numerically sequential format. Starting at law 1 and ending at law 48. Why has the author written law 1, “Never outshine the master”, to law 48 “Assume Formlessness” in the order that he has chosen? It appears the first law applies to someone who is at the bottom of the corporate ladder, and the last law would be applicable to the person only at the top.
Law 1: Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power (1)… Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies. Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily arouse to envy. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove (8)… Law 3: Conceal your intentions. Keep the people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense (16).
In all of these 3 laws they refer the way that someone can move up in the corporate world, while being elusive. It seems that the type of person that could best use these laws is someone just starting out in his/her career. Most readers might not even understand the concepts between the laws, as after analyzing this it has come to my attention the true motive behind their format.
Law 23: Concentrate your forces. Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, then by flitting from one shallow mine to another- intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for source of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come (171)… Law 24: Play the perfect courtier. The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court (178)… Law 25: Re-create yourself. Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions- your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life (191).

These 3 laws apply to a middle manager who is working their way up to top management, which is why these laws are appropriately placed in the middle of the book. This management position requires the skill necessary to have people doing the work for them. A manager will look for the best employee, the one who is the “cow” that brings the milk to his table. They will keep them under their wing, feed them grass to keep them looking good for the CEO. Cash cows have a tendency to work hard thinking they will move up fast, this is not necessarily always true. The cash cow has to become more than a cash cow, but a master courtier. “The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity.” As you can see the cash cow scenario above, has proven that the writer chooses his words well to cross a point.
Law 46: Never appear too perfect. Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weakness. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display effects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity (400)…Law 47: Do not go past the mark you aimed for; In victory, learn when to stop. The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heart of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop (432)…Law 48: Assume Formlessness. By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes (419).

These last 3 laws apply to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), or Upper management of the company. When you’re a CEO you always have goals, and will always reach them because you are determined. In current times, CEO’s will never show their weakness until it is involuntarily exposed after a scandal has happened. Most successful CEO’s will always appear weak, and make themselves equal to others. CEO’s or upper management will always listen more than they speak. As they learn to adapt to current situations, it helps them survive in their ever changing environment.
Robert Greene has two messages within the book, you can succeed by following these laws or fail trying. The three trends can be seen in every different situation, as the book references stories from the past that can well relate to the future. History has always intended to repeat itself, and we can recognize this trend through history books. The 48 Laws of Power is a step by step formula to succeed in any type of environment, from living in the ghetto to working at the stock exchange in the middle of New York. It was written with much detail, and nothing can be found confusing about his 48 laws. The reader has to prove worthy of this book, as it is not made for those who are oblivious to the way the world works.


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