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The Practice of the Extreme Obedience Essay

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Updated: Feb 1st, 2022

Extreme obedience refers to compliance through coercion. A subject is forced to submit to the orders of an authority figure through pressure, threat, or torture. Tyrants and dictators often use extreme obedience as a way of maintaining power and control over their subjects to diminish the possibility of defiance and uprisings. The opposite of extreme obedience is the tendency for people to follow authority without any coercion. Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiments, which showed proof that people conformed to the roles they were assigned to by authority figures, proved this (Elms, n.d). Zimbardo referred to this as the ‘agentic state’ whereby a person became an agent to fulfil the desires of the authority figure (Zimbardo, n.d). Therefore, extreme obedience is not necessary in society because people will obey authority and play their role as long as they perceive that there is no direct consequence of their action and they accept the authority as legitimate.

Extreme obedience is a system of rule by use of fear and it is applied by people who have a sense of superiority over others and ideological reasoning. Ideological reasoning is common in tyrants and dictators, who believe that their point of view must be adhered. For instance, in the case of the Japanese mass killing, the government is encouraging the nation to heal in a way they consider to be the most convenient. However, burning the records of history does not provide it and people face painful memories differently. Forcing a nation to forget its history is compelling them to forget where they came from. However, people are a product of their history. Therefore, such an action is unjust and it infringes the rights of the citizens. The only accomplishment that will arise from such an action is destruction of records, but the memories will remain in the minds of the Japanese. In this instant, the extreme obedience is not effective. Instead of force, the government should imply to the sense of reasoning of the citizens by making them understand the harm that can result from fostering such painful memories. This will derive more compliance as the citizens will understand their role and in turn they will obey the authority without coercion. As Milgram’s experiment has shown, it is easier for people to obey when there is no strain.

The systematic abuse by the American military in Baghdad prison can be compared to the Zimbardo experiment. This is where people develop the stereotype of a character when they face a specific situation (Haney, Banks & Zimbardo, 1973). The American military claims itself as a superior to the prisoners and thereby the maltreatment. They believed in the stereotype that prisoners had be treated with disdain and that they had no rights. People may argue that in an environment, such as a prison, the extreme obedience may be applicable because of the nature of the prisoners, which supposes to defy and disobey rules and laws. However, Milgram’s experiment disapproves this according to its findings, which showed that people yielded to authority and their roles when they perceived the authority to be legitimate. In a prison, there is a clearly defined hierarchy with the prisoners at the bottom. Due to Socrates’ description, it is a form of contract that demands absolute compliance, which is the reason why prisoners will obey the guards even without the use of force (D’Amarto, 2010).

In conclusion, it is fair to say that the extreme obedience is unnecessary because this practice denies people’s rights. According to Zimbardo and Milgram, people will naturally conform to the roles assigned to them by the authority figure and fit into the respective stereotype. This obedience in the ‘agentic status’ negates the need for force while seeking obedience and requires the authority to be tactful in forging a situation with minimal strain, so that a person can be obedient.

References

D’Amarto, A. (2012). Obligation to Obey the Law: A Study of the Death Of Socrates. 49S.Cal.Rev 1079. Web.

Elms, A. (n.d). Obedience in Retrospect. Alan C. Elms Virtual Library (1999-2007). Web.

Haney, C., Banks, W.C. & Zimbardo, P.G. (1973). A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison. Naval Research Review, 30, 4-17.

Zimbardo, P.G. (n.d). 2012. Web.

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