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Moral Critique of Law #15: The 48 Laws of Power

Updated on January 25, 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 #15.

Law #15. Crush your enemy totally.

"All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit."

-Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

The Good

It is hard for me to find the moral good of this law. In order to crush an enemy, you must be merciless and morality is in mercy (or so I believe). However, even in the Bible it says one must "Hate what is evil". (Romans 12:9) However, the action of destroying seems quite harsh. Fortunately, salvation is in the fact that destruction does not have to mean murder. It could mean crippling and further, not physical crippling or even psychological. By crippling an opponent, you may just be (permanently) preventing him from striking. This does not put it out of existence, but makes it difficult to do further harm.

It is very difficult to do this effectively. This is the type of action countries impose on other countries when they impose sanctions and other penalties for bad behavior.

The Bad

Crushing something totally may end up being a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It may not be the smartest option. Even if it were the case that your enemy were a bunch of unfeeling zombies whose sole purpose was to destroy or infect the entire human race with their own personal strain of zombie-ism, I would still beg to offer that it would be unwise to destroy them totally. Perhaps, by destroying them you destroy the opportunity to learn something new about how to prevent such a thing from happening again. So, total annihilation may not be the smartest choice. At least not immediately.

Suppose your enemy is a terrorist ideology. How do you kill an ideology? You may try to kill everyone with the same ideology, but even that only kills people, it does not kill the mentality which may be disseminated or reborn in other forms. So, this law can be easily misused.

The Key

The key to upholding this law without losing your sense of morality would be to keep in mind the two main points that I've made in this article:

  1. Destroying your enemy totally does not have to mean killing them all, and
  2. Destroying your enemy totally does not have to mean killing them all right away.

Suppose you are the head of an animal rights organization and your enemy is the meat and animal products industry... I think it's easy to see that in such a case (especially in this country) physically destroying that industry (manually) would not be the solution. In fact, it would vilify you in the eyes of the public, create martyrs and give you more enemies.

Sometimes the war you're waging is psychological not physical and you have to use different tactics and not revert to physical warfare. Shaming (i.e. disgracing or humiliating) your opponent is one form of psychological warfare that could get rid of them permanently. There's also the option of demoralizing your opponent and even disabling their source of strength.

(Note: It was really hard for me to think of a sufficient "positive" side to this law. Maybe this is proof that the pursuit of power is a dirty and morally deficient game. I'm not sure. I will revisit this article in the future and may try to update it if I can think of something I am more satisfied with. In the mean time, if you can think of the moral good in observing this law, please share. Consider it a challenge!)

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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    • Shadow Jackson profile image

      Billionaire Brains 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Very creative analysis of the concept. I'm so impressed and glad you stopped by to comment! :)

    • profile image

      Tim Chalumeau 3 years ago

      Shadow, I apply this principle to sports. In football and basketball it is preached to finish the game and destroy your opponent. A perfect example is the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 Finals and the 2014 Finals. San Antonio failed to crush Miami in 2013 and gave the Heat an opportunity to tie Game 6 in the waning seconds of regulation. The Heat ultimately won in overtime of Game 6, then won Game 7, ultimately winning the series. However, the San Antonio Spurs of the 2014 Finals completely crushed Miami Heat in 2014 by winning the series in five games (4-1).

    • Shadow Jackson profile image

      Billionaire Brains 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you, Phil, for your feedback. I believe that I was honest in this article in saying that I was struggling in my interpretation. I also requested feedback from my readers in the form of their own interpretation of the law.

      Do you have any such feedback for me?

      Take care.

    • profile image

      Phil 3 years ago

      Clearly your didn't read the book properly and/or have your head up your ass.

      This is a very very weak attempt at a critique.