Bond renders a worthwhile subject into entertaining, informative reading.

THE POWER OF OTHERS

PEER PRESSURE, GROUPTHINK, AND HOW THE PEOPLE AROUND US SHAPE EVERYTHING WE DO

London-based writer Bond wades into the murky reaches of the human psyche in this exploration of how other people’s opinions shape our behaviors and attitudes.

Combining decades of experimental research by social scientists with summaries of historical events, the author presents an analysis of how peer pressure, groupthink, heroism, evil, extreme environments and isolation all affect our actions. Bond begins by explaining why it is natural for humans to want to be part of a group. He goes on to define social mimicry and looks at how this mirroring of body language, and even moods, “helps us understand other people’s minds.” The author notes the importance of caution and protecting yourself when making decisions in today’s wired environment, with its vivid imagery and continuous “information cascade.” Bond also discusses how group dynamics and perceptions affect those individuals who are perceived as the “Other,” especially during times of stress or threat to the in-group, such as the months and years following 9/11. The author cites research exploding the theory of the madness of the mob, and he relates how this idea has been employed throughout history for political ends. Bond chronicles how authority, peer pressure and the environment can combine in dreadful ways, producing truly evil behavior such as that of Adolf Eichmann during World War II. The author recounts the shocking results obtained by Stanley Milgram during his infamous experiments conducted at Yale University during the 1960s, illustrating how important context is to how people behave. Bond devotes the concluding portion of the narrative to understanding human behaviors during and after prolonged solitary confinement or an extended solo stretch in a harsh environment such as the Arctic. “We can learn as much by looking at what happens to us when others are not there,” he writes, “when we are forced to get by on our own.”

Bond renders a worthwhile subject into entertaining, informative reading.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78074-653-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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