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Moral Critique of Law #5: 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 #5.

Law #5. So much depends on reputation - guard it with your life!

"Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputation. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them."

-Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

The Good

Clearly, reputation is important to anyone, whether they are on a quest for power or not. What reputation does for a person seeking power is that it serves to intimate and idealize. When your reputation precedes you, you don't even have to introduce yourself. Your record speaks for itself. Think about your favorite celebrities. They have a certain magical quality. The fact is, they are just like you or I, but they have set forth a picture of themselves that is mythical at best. Perhaps that explains the celebrity obsession with youth. They want to be viewed as young and beautiful forever. Certain celebrities go through great lengths to protect their reputations. That is why they stage strategic appearances in the press. Once your reputation is tarnished with a criminal record or other big mistake, you lose your "magic".

It's actually also of moral importance to guard your reputation. Even the Bible warns Christians to remain in good standing with all people. Also, often times what others think of you becomes what you think of yourself and vice versa. If you believe you are a good person, you will try to do good things. If you believe you are beautiful, you will dress the part. If you believe you are smart, you may be inclined to read more and prove it to others. So, maintaining a good reputation is quite valuable to all people.

The Bad

Becoming fixated on a good repuation may cause you to do terrible things. One who is obessessed with beauty may go to great lengths to get plastic surgery which often times leaves people looking worse than when they started; or worse spending millions of dollars retouching themselves to maintain an unrealistic ideal. One who is obsessed with being seen as the smartest person in the class may try to sabotage others or even cheat their way through. In fact, if you read carefully, the second part of the law actually encourages you to poke holes in other people's reputations. This can be viewed a morally deficient if you believe in the Bible's ten commandments, one of which reads "thou shalt not covet". If you are obsessed with being seen as "the best" at something, you may begin to feel ill will of jealousy and anger towards anyone who threatens your reputation and such negative feelings usually lead to negative actions. This may in turn yield the opposite effect: a bad reputation. You could come to be viewed as petty and coniving.

The Key

Maintain a good reputation, but don't malign others to keep it up. If you want to be viewed as "the best" at something, do it on your own strengths. Find out what makes you exceptional or search within yourself to see what sets you apart from your competitors. If you run a company like Coca-Cola, and someone comes up with a similar product, like Pepsi, it may be better to promote the unique qualities of your brand rather than tearing your competition's reputation apart at the risk of coming across as petty.

Have you read The 48 Laws of Power? What did you think of Law #5?

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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