My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Robert Greene explains the grey areas of society in black and white. If you are a fan of ‘House of Cards’, think of this as the book version. There is something in the back of your mind that tells you that Hank and Clair are exaggerations of the real Washington politics, but a part of you does wonder what really happens. For the same reasons that the TV series might seem unrealistic and exaggerated at times, the book also suffers. From trying to explain concretely things that are not concrete. I feel that the author calls them ‘laws’ instead of ‘rules’ on purpose. Rules can be broken, mended and rewritten as per your wishes. The use of the word ‘law’ in the title gives the impression that you are guilty of violation and hence deserve to be left powerless if you are incapable of subjecting yourself to these laws. The word ‘law’ maybe for more dramatic effect.
Some of the laws are fairly straightforward and others repetitions of the same. I found the historical examples particularly tedious to read after the first 50 odd pages because they were too detailed and did little to enhance my understanding of what the title of each law and the small description called ‘Judgment’ revealed. For those who have an appetite for such morsels of history without a larger context, it would be entertaining. But still, it felt as if they were written separately from each other as same characters were given decriptions over and over again under each Law.
I am guessing most people reading this book are trying to figure out management or how to deal with difficult bosses or colleagues, not win wars or deceive your opponents in diplomatic negotiations or start your own cult. In that case, this book does serve as a useful tool if you keep in mind the framework that this is clearly black and white about grey areas. They are not LAWS, they are rules. You are not meant to lie, deceive or cheat. You are meant to be stoic about your surroundings, that is take things as they are and learn to negotiate your way around them rather than thinking that a particular situation you are in is unfair and that you DESERVE better. If you start reading the book with the latter framework in mind, you will find your self disappointed and maybe even appalled by what the author suggests.
As the author explains quite well in the beginning…
“Power is a game in which you do not judge people by their intentions, but by the effect of their actions. You measure their strategy and power through what you can see and feel.”