Obedience to Authority

1265 words 6 pages
Obedience to Authority

No human social organization can function without some degree of obedience to authority, as the alternative would be anarchy leading to total chaos. Hence we find some sort of a hierarchy in both the most underdeveloped and the most civilized societies where certain individuals exercise authority over others. Almost everyone will agree that some degree of authority in certain individuals or groups (and their obedience by other groups) is desirable for the proper functioning of a society. The problem arises when the obedience to authority is taken to extremes. Unfortunately, history has shown that this happens time and again, usually with undesirable results. It is this blind obedience to authority that
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But she passionately believes that instead of going along with the herd, those of us who value independent and individual thinking, can resist the trend. In Lessing’s opinion this can be done by being aware of the propaganda techniques used by the Governments, advertisers and other people in positions of authority to manipulate and control group behavior, and by consciously resisting pressures to conform. Such pressures include peer pressure, dogma and theories propagated by political and religious leaders and parties. Lessing believes that we are by nature “group animals” with a marked herd instinct and in order to fight this instinct a conscious and deliberate effort is required. She claims that because of our group-orientation “it is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion” and remain a member of a group. She advises us to recognize the “obedient streak” in our nature and teach our children to be wary of it. (“Lessing,” Prisons We Choose…”)

Erich Fromm tackles the problem of obedience to authority from a psychological and moral viewpoint. He alerts the readers to the seductive comforts of obedience and the discomfort one must endure in order to disobey. One of the main points of Eric Fromm’s thesis is that any act which results in submitting one’s will to someone else’s (or to a group) is a


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