This book is a study of the misuse of power, which has become the chief social problem of our time. The usual attitude towards will to power is that it is a source of evil and should be held in check as much as possible. There is also the contrary attitude that will to power is a natural impulse that is indispensable for a good life. Our judgment in this matter depends upon whether it is we who seek power, or someone else.
There is a natural love of power for a good end. There is also an unnatural lust for power that makes the exercise of power an end in itself. This lust is the corruption of love by a radical distemper in the human soul. It cannot be explained in terms of the quest for security, freedom, prosperity, or any other rational good. It is not caused, either by biological traits or by any particular environment. It is generated by man's despair with his destiny, by the "power of death" and the anxious guilt that prevail in human existence.
Lust for Power is primarily a description of the process by which love of power is changed into lust for power, with special emphasis on the new power available in our technological society and upon the despair evoked by "the modern world." In the last chapter, faith and culture are presented as the double antidote to lust and as the conditions of a life at once natural and good.