Seven Reasons Why People Obey

Clearly the question of why people obey is central to understanding the dynamics of political power.

  1. Habit: the main reason people do not question the actions their “superiors” expect of them. Habitual obedience is embedded in all cultures. After all, isn’t that what culture is—habitual behavior?
  2. Fear of sanctions: it is the fear of sanctions, rather than the sanctions themselves, that is most effective in enforcing obedience.
  3. Moral obligation: this “inner constraining power” is the product of cultural programming and deliberate indoctrination by the state, church, and media.
  4. Self interest: the potential for financial gain and enhanced prestige can entice people to obey.
  5. Psychological identification with the ruler: people may feel an emotional tie with the leader or the system, experiencing its victories and defeats as their own. The most common manifestations of this are patriotism and nationalism.
  6. Zones of indifference: people often obey commands without consciously questioning their legitimacy.
  7. Absence of self-confidence: some people prefer to hand control of their lives over to the ruling class. They may feel inadequate to make their own decisions.

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