Obedience to Authority (1974)

During the years 1960-1963 Stanley Milgram carried out some experiments on obedience while working in the Department of Psychology at Yale University. Years later, in 1972-1973 he was granted a Fellowship and, while sojourning in Paris, he condensed in a book the results and reflections on those experiments that had already been presented in a shorter form in various scientific journals.

In 1974 a book by the title Obedience to Authority was published. It makes chilling reading because it unmasks, in the crudest and clearest possible way, the weaknesses of human nature. In fact it shows us that human nature is a very flexible bundle of tendencies and that those tendencies that are highly regarded in our mass society (e.g. loyalty, duty, and discipline) are potentially the most dangerous for the survival of humanity and humankind as they can be used for making people to commit the most heinous actions whenever specific conditions are in place.

And the conditions are (a) the concentration of power in individuals and institutions that circumfuse themselves with an aura of professional authority that puts them beyond moral questioning; (b) the neglect, for the mass of people, of the development of critical faculties made possible through the monopolistic use of the means of communication and education as instruments of propaganda and manipulation, at the service of the Church power in the past and of the state power in the present.

Go here to read the first chapter.

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