Obedience to Authority

Write about a piece of literature and its meaning to you.


I never thought that I could be made to do someone serious harm until I read Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram. The book describes the Milgram experiment, in which ordinary people were made to believe that they were doing something potentially harmful to another human being for the purposes of a scientific experiment. Despite an obvious moral dilemma, a vast majority of subjects could not diverge from the wishes of the authority figure. The greatest revelation I had after reading this was that I was potentially no different than any of those test subjects.

This is not to say that I believe I am weak, or that I follow instructions blindly. It is merely recognition that there is a mechanism that exists within all individuals which governs our behavior, and that mechanism is not always in our control. Obedience is necessary if one wishes to function in a society, but it can become problematic when it is manipulated by a malevolent authority. It is very rare that I would have the occasion to exercise my free will in the face of a malevolent authority figure, nor would that be a good time to flex my emotional muscles for the first time. However, there are elements of obedience which I encounter daily that provide the perfect...

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