Obedience refers to the compliance with the commands or orders provided by an authority figure. Ideally, it is a necessary an element in the social life structure that one can identify. In the world that we are living in, some systems of authority emerge as the requirement and is usually an individual dwelling in the isolation who is not propelled to respond, with the submission or refusal to the commands of others (Milgram 100). Many people view obedience as a deeply ingrained behaviour that is overridden by the moral conduct, ethics, and sympathy. The relationship between the obedience one topics that forms a major discussion in social psychology. On the other hand, the conscience is used to express two different phenomena, the authoritarian conscience and the super-ego (Fromm 89). These consciences serve as our significant functioning as a human being. A major question that emerges or however, between obedience and conscience is the one that attempts to examine the extent or circumstances in which individuals can ignore their consciences to obey the orders given by an authority figure. This paper, therefore, seeks to examine the extent and situations in which individuals can ignore their consciences to obey the orders given by authority figures.
An individuals decision to obey or disobey the orders given by an authority figure considerably relies on the conscience of that individual. As explained, the conscience refers to the practice of making informed judgment despite the existing concept of authority. Two types of consciences exist; the authoritarian conscience and the humanistic conscience. The authoritarian conscience refers to the internalized voice of an authority whom we are eager to please and follow. On the other hand, the humanistic conscience offers a represent of the voice present in every human being and the independent from any outside orders and rewards. Often, the orders from the authority figure are usually directed to the respective subjects to be obeyed and followed. Even at the era whereby people know the importance of obeying their conscience, with the aim of making informed judgments and decisions, it is still common to see human beings ignore their consciences and moving forward to obey the orders given by authority figures (Fromm 34). But why is a man so prone to ignore his conscience and goes ahead to obey the commands offered by the authority figures? In his experiment, Stanley Milgram provides the explanations regarding the extent and the circumstances under which people will choose to ignore their consciences to obey the authority figures commands.
Factors that increase obedience
According to Milgram, the subjects are more likely to obey in some circumstances than others. He asserts that compliance was considerably higher when the commands were given by the authority figure rather than the volunteer. Besides, when subjects did not see other subjects disobeying the decisions or orders provided by the authority figure, they are more likely raise their levels of obedient (Milgram 101). On a wider note, the results translated to the development of the circumstances through which human being may ignore their consciences.
Firstly, people will ignore their conscience when they justify their behaviors by assigning the responsibility to the authority rather than themselves. In this case, individuals will comply or conform so that their behaviors do not stand out or upset the majority. In most scenarios, these actions are those that are usually by law (Milgram 211). For instance, a cigarette-smoking manager my resort not to smoke while in at work despite the addiction and the intense urge to smoke, because of the organizational laws and regulations that prohibit such behaviour. In this case, they define such behaviours as what is expected of them as a routine. Related to this is self-esteem, which makes people always want to convince others of their behaviours, and therefore will always end up complying with the authority figures commands.
The need to remain under power and feel protected makes people ignore their consciences to obey the commands of the authority. In this sense, people will always find it tough to say no to power about the human history of obedience (Dugard 56). During the most of the human history, the practice to conform and comply has been identified with virtue and disobedience with sin. The history of the world has made it in such a manner that minority have to rule, and there were only enough suitable things for the ruling few, while the crumbs remained for many. Whenever the minority want to enjoy the good things and even more, they are required to oblige with the orders the ruling provides through learning to be obedient.
As illustrated in the Milgrams foot-in-the-door phenomenon, people often resort to obey the easy initial commands, and ultimately feel forced to comply more and more with the tight commands. This process is referred to as the entrapment. The former refers to the practice whereby an authority gives commands to an individual to commit difficult task, or rather an offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to do. This is usually attributable to the dilemma found in submission to the authority (Milgram 56).
Disobedience as a way of promoting social and political change
While it is evident that the people may comply and conform to various commands given by the authority figure, the obedience may not occur on some occasions. In order one to disobey, one must have the courage to be independent. The capacity for courage as mentioned above is determined by an individuals state of development. Milgram argues that Only if a person has emerged from the mothers lap and fathers commands and ultimately emerged as a fully developed individual with the capacity to think and feel himself will he be able about making informed decisions even in the presence of the authority figures or sanctions. According to Fromm (34), a person can attain his full sense of humanity and freedom through the disobedience actions by learning to say no to the authority. However, not only is the capacity for disobedience the condition for the freedom but the freedom is also a condition for disobedience. In reality, the freedom and the capacity to disobey are inseparable. Therefore, any social, political and religious systems that proclaim freedom and stumps out the disobedient is not speaking the truth.
Various people in the world used different types of disobedient to foster both the social and political justice. Notably, Mahatma Gandhi applied the civil disobedient technique as a non-violent resistance towards British Empire and its expansion in India. In South Africa, the fight against the Apartheid Policy involved the use of non-violent forms of disobedient not to comply (Dugard 174). In the United States, Martin Luther King employed the use of non-violent resistance during the American Civil Rights Movement. The leaders in these movements let their consciences serve as their significant functioning as a human being, thereby promoting the social and political change in their nations (Dugard 176).
Fromm, Erich, and Erich Fromm. On Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying "no" to Power. New York, NY: Harper, 2010. Print. 34
Brown, Judith M. Gandhi and Civil Disobedience: The Mahatma in Indian Politics, 1928-34. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.
Dugard, John. Human Rights and the South African Legal Order. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1978. Internet resource.
Milgram, Stanley. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. New York: Harper Perennial, Modern Thought, 2009. Print.
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