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Moral Critique of Law #2: The 48 Laws of Power

Updated on January 24, 2014

I read the book The 48 Laws of Power out of a curiosity and a hunger for something greater for myself. What I found was a book that could be seen as ruthless and manipulative in it's principles. I have decided to write a series of critiques of each of the laws. I will discuss the good and the bad of the law as well as a key that I've found to upholding the law without losing your morality.

Now, I will discuss Law #2.

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 aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them."

-Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

The Good

Finding the good in this law is rather difficult. On face value this law sounds very manipulative and coniving. How can one feel comfortable using their friends and allies as chess pieces? However, there is a redemptive quality hidden within. If you thorougly read the chapter on this law you will see the author speak in detail about human behavior. Often times when a friend becomes rich, powerful and/or successful, those closest to him become his biggest problem. They are the ones who often become jealous or antagonistic. They often feel like since they "know" him they can take certain liberties. Often times friends fall into two categories: yes men and jokesters. Either way, they are not the type of people you want to surround yourself with when doing business.

Your enemies, on the other hand, walk on egg shells around you. They wouldn't dare over step their boundaries with you for fear that you may be watching and waiting to strike against them. In this way, the law is a helpful tool in business and politics.

The Bad

I have said that the law is a helpful tool in business and politics, but I must say that in general every day life, you may not want to live this way. That is why it is called the "48 Laws of Power". Power is a force with which you use to control people. For power to be had by someone, there must be others who are subject to them. In everyday life, most people are just interested in living their life and having fun. This is not a fun way to live. To use your friends like pawns and control your enemies like puppets is a terribly lonely lifestyle, because with this as your mantra who exactly do you confide in? Not your friends, because you can't "trust" them. Your enemies? Of course not! Essentially this law seems to be saying that you can't have "friends". Friends are people you have fun with. You are silly with. There is no silly in the game of power apparently.

The Key

The key is to find the balance. If you are indeed hungry for power, you have to work hard for it. It is not a simple matter of, I want this. I have this. It's mine. You will have to work hard to maintain it. This requires making certain sacrifices. So, the key is to know that power is not for everyone and also to know that you can duck out and live a normal life at any time.

Another key is to finding the balance in understanding the importance of boundaries. Don't tell your friends things that are too "heavy". That is to say, save your "heavy" information for your advisors and those whose "job" it is to handle that. Don't trust your friends with financial information and other important things. Save them for parties and good times. This is a great opportunity for you to practice boundary control which is important to EVERYONE. Not just the powerful. Also, making your enemies in-debted to you is not manipulative. It's smart! It's better than making them even more angry and eventually causing them to lash out at you. It's actually many times more humane than the alternative. So, it's all in the way you look at it.

Have you read The 48 Laws of Power? What did you think of Law #2?

You can probably get this book on for less than $15 or bid on it on eBay, but read it with a compassionate heart and watch the Laws of Power work magic in your business, relationship and life! Then, join the conversation in the comment box below!


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