The 48 Laws Of Power By Robert Greene – Critical Review

Name: The 48 Laws Of Power
Author: Robert Greene
Genre: Non-Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-8619-7278-1
Pages: 480
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Profile Books
Edition/ Impression / Year of Publication: Edition 2000

Schopenhauer through his work Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, often translated into English as The World As Will and Representation made a considerable influence over Nietzsche. Schopenhauer put forward in it the concept of the Will to Live which states that within all of us is a blind force that strives towards living and that is always working on our instinctual drives, an insatiable desire within all of us to keep on living. Schopenhauer, in turn, was itself influenced by the Indian and Buddhist Philosophy where the cause of suffering is the result of our own endless and pointless desires. However, Nietzsche went ahead and pierced in a bit further and came up with the Will to Power.

Nietzsche describes his concept of Will to Power as the force that drives all towards gaining more and more power. The Will to Power, Nietzsche demonstrated, is a force that is much profound than our desire to survive. It is because of the Will to Power that a few even enjoy pleasure in cruelty. However, Nietzsche does not give to any of his theories a normative character. Nietzsche did not divide the lines based on the good and evil nature of the Will to Power but merely stated the case that is.

Greene, however in his The 48 Laws of Power could be seen on taking the single-sided stand that to live one must take up treachery,  coercion, deception, charm, strategy, and deceit to gain more power for the success of oneself and the close ones. He also explains how this book could help one become a better lover, although all that the book does is to wash away the notions of love and kindness.

Greene quotes Nietzsche together with Schopenhauer for a total of sixteen times in the book. Moreover, I, being an authority on the Existentialists, figured out that all the quotes were out of context. Greene used the quotes in such manipulative ways that it deceives the reader to think that those whom he quotes, has nothing except but to seek power and victory over the other.

What Greene here professes quoting Nietzsche, Nietzsche himself despised. Nietzsche in his On the Geneology of Morals talks about two types of moral systems, master morality, and slave morality. Nietzsche was critical of both, and he did not refer anyone to the other which apparently a few think that he did. He knew that there would soon come a time when the society would have to reassess all the values and moral systems and when all the variabilities and inconsistencies within the two systems would be left out, and that would give birth to the Zarathustra, the central character in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra who represented the Ubermensch.

Although Nietzsche stated that the Will to Power is the case, he also announced that a day would come when the Ubermensch, that is the Overman would be born who would transcend the very Human, All Too Human situation that we are in now. However, Greene here has taken a strict viewpoint where he sees the world just as a place to gain more power. Greene considers this world just as an ugly place where there is no place to trust, and before anybody conquers you, it is better to capture them.

Buddha has said, ‘A man who conquers oneself is better than a man who conquers a thousand.’ Buddha born a ruler, if wanted, could have ruled the entire kingdom but he saw the very act of governing others as stupidity, the Will to Power he said ultimately leads one astray and gave nothing but suffering. Buddha presented to the world the First Noble Truth that Life is a Suffering, but one would not see upon his face the slightest pain of that suffering, for he has transcended it. Buddha was the also the Ubermensch but of a slightly different manner and sense.

Buddha is not enslaved by the power systems of the society since he is Awake. The community could oppress only the one who is unaware and asleep, the one who is Awake is out of its grasp.  Greene also talks about the suffering that life is, but he does not prescribe a way out of it that the Buddha prescribes in the Second, Third, and Fourth Nobel Truths. Greene also talks about the ugliness that there is in the world, but he does not keep before the reader an Ubermensch as Nietzsche did. Instead, he provokes us to be a part of the power-hungry society, to allow this ugliness to continue and remain.

Greene mentions that children act from an elemental need to gain control over others and that they feel powerless in the adult world. Children feel helpless that is true, not because they possess an elemental need to gain power over others but because they see that the adults are doing it already and it becomes difficult for children to survive in such a ruthlessly competitive society. Children notice that all that they have to run for is money even at the cost of emotions and ethics.

Money has a significant and beneficial role to play to help create a happy and loving society for ourselves and the others. For all those who are into Business or Finance knows and understands the need for Business Ethics and how vital and significant role they play in the long-standing of a company. Greene, however, does not care about establishing long-term relationships and focuses on the meeting of the ends as fast as possible, but that would only bring transitory success and a continued failure.

Greene obviously under his ignorance does not realize that how destructive such thought processes are to the society. He is just adding up to the suffering of another child who would encounter this world and see that everybody is after power, so transitory so superficial. Instead, he could have done a compelling research work on Power where he could have given ways to improvising oneself and the whole of society, but he asks us to give in.

Greene challenges the Darwinian notion that says that we evolved from the other animal species and keeps up his identity as a man who is still developed merely on a physiological ground, and at a more profound psychological level believe we are all still Chimpanzees fighting for more power and its by-products that comes with the power. We, who suffer from the same instinctual drives like animals do, which could be accepted but we also experience the inertia of not transcending through our animal instincts, which barrens the fertile soil for the Ubermensch to be born.

There is a subtle propaganda working behind the quoting style of Greene when he quotes people like Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini. He cites them in such contexts that it provokes the reader to become interested in the accumulation of Power and he never details the reader of their final failure in life, the tragedy that befalls upon them, the suffering that they went through at the last moments in life. He hides information necessary for an intelligent being to critically analyze the scenario and judge for one’s right if is it necessary to run the race for power or not.

Alexander at his deathbed asked his caretakers to kept his arms outside the coffin so that the world could see that after so many wars and destruction and conquering almost half the world he too would go empty-handed. However, the significant part of the society has become Alexandrian who imitates whole of his life seeking power and never learns through the last lesson of his life.

Buddha, Jesus, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Camus, Sartre, and Osho were all well aware of the suffering inherent in the world, but they never added more to it. It apparently is also the case because of the Author, Greene, who is not a thinker and a philosopher and is but more interested in making his ends meet either ways. His interest is more business oriented and least concerns philosophically, and genuine concern for a man of thought has always shaped a philosophical and spiritual character hence this book deserved a critical thoughtful analysis.

Greene leaves no room for compassion, trust, love, and God. Within us, there is inherent a deep frustration for all of us knows within our hearts that this is not the life that we wanted. However, we must improvise upon our lives and simultaneously try to help all that are with or against us. Greene apparently would not agree for the contempt he has towards the world. This hatred has filled him with suspicion towards everybody; he asks us not even to trust the friends. I would like to quote Jesus here, whom I know that I, in no way could misquote, as Greene did to Nietzsche, ‘What good would it bring, if you love those who love you, even sinners love those who love them.’

Before buying into such ideas as Greene professes, that is the point of deep introspection. One might not realize the danger that such people through their thoughts pose, but it is because of them that the society remains such.

Even a man like Nietzsche could not bear the suffering and the ugliness that surrounds the world. The man who proclaimed the death of God (it precisely means the end of old established values) and who preferred himself be called an Anti-Christ (must not be misinterpreted as the one who was against Jesus but as the one who was against Christianity) fell on the street when he saw a horse getting whipped. Nietzsche that day had experienced the horror of suffering to the extreme, and he sees through the pain and the suffering that the horse went through. He spent the rest of his life in the asylum, he was done with the suffering that he saw in the world, and never recovered until his death.

Osho said of Nietzsche, ‘If he is born in India he would have been a Sage.’ Freud said of him ‘Anyone had never achieved the degree of introspection achieved by Nietzsche, nor is it likely ever to be achieved again.’ The society, it seems, pushes men of such immense value and intelligence towards insanity, what pity.

Greene is the man with that whip, and he enjoys the pleasure that is in cruelty. Such people do not want others to stop them and instead asks all to whip the slave, the poor, the one whom one could suppress, the one that one could rule over. Moreover, these people have been the cause of suffering that Buddha saw in the world, these are the people because of whom Nietzsche went mad, these are the people because of whom an ideal society always drifts away from us.

Greene writes that we must change our perspective so that we could learn the skills that are required to play the game of power. Nietzsche also said, that to change one’s life it is essential to change the way one thinks. However, again Nietzsche does not give any perspective, all that he does is that he takes away the view and does not impose his ideology upon anybody but Greene prepared with his skills and strategies to rule over the territory of your psyche, and he examines that out upon you.

Schopenhauer wrote in his On the Suffering of the World, ‘My ethics stands in the same relation to that of all other European Philosophies as the new testament does to the old, taking this relationship in the ecclesiastical sense.’ Greene has completely ruined his reputation by misquoting him here and there, where he is always using Schopenhauer out of context.

In the world of Greene, there is no place for Compassion. However, Schopenhauer in his Ueber die Grundlage der Moral, translated as On The Basis Of Morality, a critique of the Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, proposes, argues and then claims that morality always stems from compassion. However, Greene portrays the character of Schopenhauer as the one who is against morality and calls his book The 48 Laws Of Power and the power itself as amoral while camouflaging all sorts of immoral ideologies within it and serving it to the reader.

The blind driving force that is working behind Greene is the same that Schopenhauer called the Will to Live, and it is also the one that Nietzsche proposes is the Will to Power and is also the same that he necessitates requires transcending so that the Overman could be born. However, The drive that is the Will to Live and theWill to Power has blurred the vision Of Greene. He quotes the Indian Philosopher Kautilya four times, but least does he know about the spiritual character of Indian philosophy.

The critical criticism is almost made, and as far as the structure of the book is concerned, it is friendly even for the non-readers, as one could directly skip through any of the 48 Laws that one might find amusing. Greene starts off with proposing the law, then gives a live historical example of that law. He then interprets the law in the contemporary sense and seeks for the validity for the observance of the law in such and such scenarios. Lastly, he gives his Judgement and throws light upon the fact that how observing the law might in every situation also reverse the very result expected from that law.

I would not ask one not to read the book. One does not conquer oneself by running away from what the society has to offer but by merely accepting first the way the society is. All that I would ask of is to remain Awake while reading and use the discretionary ability to decide when something is right and when it is not for the betterment of oneself and the whole. Do not jump into the sea just because it is flowing in the direction where you would like to go. Beware of the sharks, the tides, and the pirates and most importantly beware of the sea itself.

It is essential as Nietzsche warns, ‘Whoever fights monsters must see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.’ Greene, it seems was always adamant about being the monster and never even dared to fight them. Nietzsche adds, ‘And when you look deep into an abyss, the abyss gazes deeply unto you.’ It also seems by the superficial character of his book that Greene has never looked into the abyss to the point where the void starts overpowering you and it either drives you mad and you spent the rest of your life in the asylum like Nietzsche, or you transcend it and become Awake and remain a Buddha.

Greene, likes himself being called a realist, warns the reader of the possible consequence when one starts experimenting with the laws. I would like to finish here by giving a message to Greene, quoting him in his own words that he uses while warning the readers of the possible dangers that are inherent in the play of Power, ‘Power is endlessly seductive and deceptive in its own way. It is a labyrinth-your mind becomes consumed with solving its infinite problems, and you soon realize how pleasantly lost you have become.’ I wish Greene a happy journey back home.


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