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The 48 Laws of Power

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The 48 Laws of Power
AuthorRobert Greene
Published1998 (Viking Press) (HC); 2007 (HighBridge Audio) CD
Publication placeUnited States
ISBN0670881465 (HC); ISBN 978-1598870923 (CD)
303.3 21
LC ClassBD438 .G74 1998
Followed byThe Art of Seduction 

The 48 Laws of Power (1998) is a self-help book by American author Robert Greene.[1] The book is a New York Times bestseller,[2][3] selling over 1.2 million copies in the United States.


Greene initially formulated some of the ideas in The 48 Laws of Power while working as a writer in Hollywood and concluding that today's power elite shared similar traits with powerful figures throughout history.[4] In 1995, Greene worked as a writer at Fabrica, an art and media school, and met a book packager named Joost Elffers.[5][6] Greene pitched a book about power to Elffers and six months later, Elffers requested that Greene write a treatment.[5]

Although Greene was quite unhappy in his job, he was comfortable and saw the time needed to write a proper book proposal as too risky.[7] However, at the time Greene was rereading his favorite biography about Julius Caesar and took inspiration from Caesar's decision to cross the Rubicon River and fight Pompey, thus inciting Caesar's civil war.[7] Greene wrote the treatment, which would later become The 48 Laws of Power.[7] He would note this as the turning point of his life.[7]


Critics and scholars[edit]

Carol Kennedy, writing in Director magazine, states "some of Greene's 'laws' seem contradictory" and the work is "plodding and didactic".[8] Jerry Adler, writing in Newsweek, lists ways the laws contradict one another and states, "Intending the opposite, Greene has actually produced one of the best arguments since the New Testament for humility and obscurity."[9] Kirkus Reviews said Greene offers no evidence to support his world view, that his laws contradict each other, and that the book is "simply nonsense".[10]

The 48 Laws of Power has been studied at Millsaps College, and Ramapo College.[11][12] Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University said that Greene's so-called laws are based on isolated examples, and not on solid research.[4]


The 48 Laws of Power has sold over 1.3 million copies in the United States and has been translated into 24 languages.[5] Fast Company called the book a "mega cult classic", and the Los Angeles Times noted that The 48 Laws of Power turned Greene into a "cult hero with the hip-hop set, Hollywood elite and prison inmates alike".[5][13]

The book has been reported to be much requested in American prison libraries.[4][14] Rapper 50 Cent stated that he related to the book "immediately", and approached Greene with the prospect of a potential collaboration, which would later become The 50th Law, another New York Times bestseller.[15] Busta Rhymes and Derrius Jackson used The 48 Laws of Power to deal with problematic movie producers.[6] The 48 Laws of Power has also been mentioned in songs by UGK, Jay Z, Kanye West, Central Cee, MF DOOM, and Drake.[16][17][18] [19] Dov Charney, founder and former CEO of American Apparel who would be terminated by that company in 2014, frequently quoted the laws during board meetings, has given friends and employees copies of the book, and appointed Greene to the board of the now defunct American Apparel.[5][20][21] Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is also claimed by the book's author to have read the book.[5] The book has been banned by several US prisons.[22]

The 48 Laws of Power has been referenced, or bought by 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Michael Jackson (who wrote in the margins[23]), Courtney Love (who was photographed carrying it on the way to court when facing a drug charge[24]), Will Smith and Jurin from the Japanese girlgroup XG.[5][25][26][4][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greene, Robert (2000). The 48 Laws of Power. New York: Penguin Books. p. 452. ISBN 0140280197.
  2. ^ "Business Bestsellers". New York Times. November 8, 1998.
  3. ^ Green, Hardy. "Best Selling List". BusinessWeek.
  4. ^ a b c d Blake, John. How to Master the ‘48 Laws of Power’. CNN. March 15, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Chang, Andrea. American Apparel's in-house guru shows a lighter side. LA Times. August 30, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Paumgarten, Nick. Fresh Prince. New Yorker. November 6, 2006.
  7. ^ a b c d Perlroth, Nicole. Robert Greene on Power Ambition Glory. Forbes. June 16, 2009.
  8. ^ Kennedy, Carol (1999), The 48 Laws of Power By Robert Greene, Director Publications, retrieved January 12, 2014[dead link]
  9. ^ Adler, Jerry (1998). "The Prince Wants a Word With You". Newsweek. Vol. 132, no. 16. Archived from the original on January 12, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  10. ^ "The 48 Laws of Power". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  11. ^ "48 Laws of Power Syllabus" (PDF). Millsaps College. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 1, 2011.
  12. ^ "The 48 Laws of Power Syllabus" (PDF). Ramapo College. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-08-09. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  13. ^ Johnson, Lynn. "The 50 Cent Bible". Fast Company. September 10, 2009.
  14. ^ Garner, Dwight. "The Readers Behind Bars Put Books to Many Uses". The New York Times. October 19, 2010.
  15. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (September 4, 2009). "When the gangsta rapper met the self-help guru". The Guardian.
  16. ^ "Kanye West – Primetime Lyrics". RapGenius.
  17. ^ UGK (August 7, 2007). Living This Life (music video). Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
  18. ^ Central Cee – Ungrateful, retrieved 2022-07-04
  19. ^ "Drake – What I'm Thinkin' Right Now Lyrics". RapGenius.
  20. ^ Li, Shan (2014-12-16). "American Apparel fires founder Dov Charney after internal investigation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  21. ^ Robertson, Michelle (2017-01-14). "American Apparel to close all of its stores". SFGATE. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  22. ^ "Books Banned in U.S. Prisons Featured at Minneapolis Art Festival" (video). Unicorn Riot Media. June 25, 2018.
  23. ^ "Bonhams : Joseph Millighan Ambetsa : an annotated copy of the book 'The 48 Laws Of Power' by Robert Greene". www.bonhams.com. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  24. ^ "Singer Love to face drugs trial". BBC News. April 16, 2004. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  25. ^ Lee, Chris (July 12, 2006). "Laws for an Outlaw Culture". Los Angeles Times.
  26. ^ Paumgarten, Nick (November 6, 2006). "Fresh Prince: Hip-hop's Machiavelli". The New Yorker.
  27. ^ Tice, Carol. "All's Fair?" Entrepreneur. November 1, 2006.

External links[edit]