The Role Of Power In Obedience

1291 words - 5 pages

To Obey or Disobey: The Role of Power in Obedience

People’s decision to obey or disobey the law is based on how much power (in its various
forms) they perceive the law to have behind it. The power of coercion is one maintained by every
government in human history: the power to punish. The power of legitimacy is a much more
subtle power: the power to appear as an authority and let others presume that you know best.
While enforcing law, authorities will exercise both these powers. Both powers underscore
government and society’s ability to control us and to get us to obey.
Why do we obey? Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority, a series of experiments in
which subjects were told to administer what they believed to be high-voltage electric shocks to
people who they thought were experimental subjects, shows us the disturbing extent of people’s
obedience in the face of power. Whereas it was hypothesized that few of the subjects would
actually shock their supposed experimental subjects, the actual experiments showed a
“disturbingly high level of compliance with authority figures despite the apparent pain evinced
by the false experimental subjects.” (Cover 223) Even when the false experimental subjects
(actually just a tape recording of responses) screamed with supposed agony, the vast majority of
the subjects, although showing some hesitation and concern for their “victims”, still nevertheless
shocked them again and again at the behest of the authority, even after the “victims” had gone
silent. (Cover 223) The almost blind obedience of these subjects was due to the power of
legitimacy and expertise they perceived the authority figures behind the experiment to have. The
2
authorities were able to impose their will on the subjects with little resistance because the
subjects thought that the authorities must know what they were doing since they appeared to be
Yale professors and the subjects were absolved from all responsibility. Although there was no
actual law that the subjects had to comply with the authorities, the authorities were perceived to
have enough power for the most of the subjects to follow their instructions completely and
without question. Because of the results in his study, Milgram hypothesizes that we have a
“human predisposition” to obey our authorities in the face of power. (Cover 223)
So why does it seem that we naturally tend to obey? It may not be purely human nature.
Peter Kropotkin argues in “Law and Authority” that it is the government’s power to impress
upon us the importance and necessity of obedience that molds most of us all into law-abiding,
obedient members of society. According to Kropotkin, the government uses education as its
main weapon, brainwashing us from an early age into thinking that the law reigns supreme above
everything else in our lives: “Cleverly assorted scraps of spurious science are inculcated upon the
children to prove necessity of law; obedience to the law is made a...

Find Another Essay On The Role of Power in Obedience

Summary of the Dilemma of Obedience

616 words - 2 pages Summary of The Dilemma of Obedience In the chapter "The Dilemma of Obedience" of the book Obedience to Authority : An Experimental View, Stanley Milgram explores the concept of obedience to authority, and why people cannot defy authority even the situation is totally conflicting with morality. He introduces his ideas by giving the definition of obedience, and mentions Nazi extermination as an instance of obedience, which contradicts with

Blind Obedience in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

2802 words - 11 pages . . . . Jackson’s story help[s] to create the specter of a holocaust in the United States. (Yarmove 245) James Evans believes that since the story was written in the immediate aftermath of World War II and the holocaust, it raised (and can still raise) important questions concerning ‘the power of mass psychology, the possibility that blind adherence to tradition will forestall judgment, and the ease with which responsibility can be

Compare the different theories of obedience

1311 words - 5 pages some people carrying no more authority are so skilled at commanding obedience.Another theory of obedience is "Social Power and leadership", people may obey because of the power that other people have over them. We are taught at from an early age to respect those in authority and do as they instruct us to do. The most common description of this theory of social power is from French and Raven (1959). They divide the power into five distinct forms

Depravity for the Sake of Obedience

1189 words - 5 pages ” (Brooks 651). There was a time when only unjust authority was questioned by the majority; now it is common to question any one with power. This is a manner of disobedience that is as disadvantageous to society as blind obedience. If we were all self-centered and motivated by greed, then humanity would not stand a chance at progressing. In her article “Group Minds,” author Doris Lessing’s general thesis is that humanity is “now in possession of

The Perils of Obedience, by Stanley Milgram

1728 words - 7 pages innocent people. The experimenter in the room was to be the authority figure to give orders and keep the teacher participating in the experiment. The results from Yale University were of the 40 participants, 26 delivered the shock to the highest level and 14 obeyed the experimenter all the way to the second highest level and stopped. Milgram concludes that society has much to do with the shaping of obedience. Society views disobeying instructions

The Influence of Conformity and Obedience

2929 words - 12 pages The influence of conformity and obedience affect behaviors of the individual and society. Acts of evil and heroism alike intrigue the social scientist. Exploration of the concepts of conformity and obedience will culminate in an analysis of Asch’s classical conformity study. The dangers of blind obedience will be evident in a discussion of Abu Ghraib. Finally, a discussion of the individual and societal influences that lead to deviance from

The Perils of Obedience by Stanley Milgram

818 words - 3 pages “The Perils of Obedience” was written by Stanley Milgram in 1974. In the essay he describes his experiments on obedience to authority. I feel as though this is a great psychology essay and will be used in psychology 101 classes for generations to come. The essay describes how people are willing to do almost anything that they are told no matter how immoral the action is or how much pain it may cause.      This essay even though it was

Treaty of Versailles' Role in Hitler's Rise to Power

1378 words - 6 pages Treaty of Versailles' Role in Hitler's Rise to Power The Treaty of Versailles was important to Hitler's rise to power because, it was the cause of Germany's downfall. Hitler felt very strongly about the Treaty of Versailles and thought the terms were unfair towards Germany. Many German people also despised the treaty, and wanted something done about it. Hitler was there to turn to. He wanted to abolish the treaty

A Summary of "The Perils of Obedience"

691 words - 3 pages In "The Perils of Obedience," Stanley Milgram conducted a study that tests the conflict between obedience to authority and one's own conscience. Through the experiments, Milgram discovered that the majority of people would go against their own decisions of right and wrong to appease the requests of an authority figure. The study was set up as a "blind experiment" to capture if and when a person will stop inflicting pain on another as they

The role of Che Guevara in the cuban revolution. Description and analysis of Che Guevara (the legendary guerilla fighter) who helped Fidel Castro take over power in Cuba

917 words - 4 pages Che Guevara was a key personality who played a pivotal role not only in the revolutionary movement's seizure of power in 1959 but also in the social revolution which transformed Cuba into a Communist state. Guevara contribution was primarily as a unifying and driving force of the revolution behind the leadership of Fidel Castro. Guevara played significant role in the guerrilla army which seized power in 1959 and also in Castro's regime where he

TheTaming of the Shrew: Organized Religion and Obedience

1906 words - 8 pages mean blind obedience. It is subject to conditions. For instance, it is required only if what is asked from the wife is within the permissible categories of action. It also must be maintained only with regard to matters that fall under the husband's rights (i.e the wife must be faithful, trustworthy, and honest). Obeying one's husband in no way demeans the role of the wife. Her role is as important. She is the center of the family and if she is

Similar Essays

The Apostle Of Obedience Essay

1913 words - 8 pages The Apostle of Obedience The atrocities, committed by the Muslim invaders, had, no doubt, put the indigenous population of India into great suffering. But the impact of the Brahmanical malpractices was much greater. Through the convention of rituals and caste discrimination the Hindu priesthood was plundering the innocent people. Under such circumstances Bhai Lehna was born on March 31, 1504, AD, at village Mate-dee

The Power Of Baseball And Role Models In Latin America

1983 words - 8 pages The Power of Baseball and Role Models in Latin America In many countries around the world, the socioeconomic problem is so bad that they are granted the title of a Third World country. Countries that are not quite as bad, such as most Latin American countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, often have trouble, on a smaller level, of creating jobs and job security for its people to inspire work ethic and incentive to raise

Why People Become Corrupt: Conformity, Obedience And The Power Of Situation

1455 words - 6 pages different situation of committing crimes because a person of authority has asked them to participate in illegal activity. In order to understand the negative consequences that result from this social influence, it is important to analyze the concepts of conformity, obedience and the power of the situation. Conformity is defined as a change in behavior or belief to accord with others. (Meyers 170) What other people do and say can gradually

Punishment In The Milgram Obedience Experiment

810 words - 3 pages finished grade school. (Milgram’s Experiment on Obedience to Authority) They were told the experiment would study the effects of punishment on a person’s learning ability. They were offered money for participating in the experiment. Three people were in a room the experimenter, and his two subjects. The subjects drew a piece of paper to assign their role, teacher or learner. The drawing was fixed so that the participants were always the