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Power Over Individuals

Updated April 26, 2022
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Power Over Individuals essay

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Authority conforms individuals in both a physical and a psychological way. Having power often times goes to ones head and creates a sense of fulfillment, due to the entitlement over individuals. In the articles The Stanford Prison Experiment by Saul McLeod, and Obedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem by Erich Fromm the ways of obedience are described as a virtue and acted upon out of fear. On the contrary, in the articles How Does Power Affect the Powerful by Bryce Nelson, and What is Power and How does it Affect People by Daniel Jolley demonstrates the idea that authority can affect others of a higher standing, as well how having power effects oneself. Lastly, in the article Why Defense Lawyers Defend Killers and Rapists by Abbe Smith, it describes the psychological and emotional reasons as to why people listen to people of power. Through these articles it is clear that authoritative figures have major impacts on both individuals and other members of authority through conformity, obedience, fear, and peer pressure.

In the article The Stanford Prison Experiment by Saul McLeod, they described an experiment done to see how test subjects would react to the roles they had been assigned. Deindividuation played a major roles in what was happening amongst the test subjects. The guards had a uniforms demonstrating authority and the prisoners wore dehumanizing clothing. Both prisoners and officers were becoming so immersed in their roles that they began to lose senses of their own identity, even though it was only an experiment. Zimbardo had to stop the experiment early because the Guards bega to actually physically abuse the test subjects and one prisoner developed acute emotional disturbance, disorganized thinking, uncontrollable crying, and rage. The fact that ordinary people were so easily conformed into the roles they were assigned all because a psychologist (person of higher standing) told them to do so is the scary truth that authority plays a major role in how a person acts.

In the article Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem by Erich Fromm, the idea of obedience versus disobedience was argued about. Fromm states “history began with an act of disobedience, and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience” (Fromm, 1). He is saying that people must act in a disobedient manor in order to to lead successful lives and that in order to stop cruel things from occurring you must obey in order to disobey. Likewise in the The Stanford Prison Experiment authority was the determining factor of each individual’s actions. They enjoy the security that obedience brings. Individuals who were raised in an authoritarian environment, in which obedience to authority is stressed as a means of feeling secure, would be most likely to conform to authority when reminded of the root of their fear. People of power agree to disagree with their actions and decisions, but continuously choose to do the wrong thing and se their authoritative power as a weapon.

In the article Just do what the Pilot tells you, by Theodore Dalrymple, focuses on the need for obedience in order to feel normal and balanced. He is not against or for disobedience, but rather in between the two. He believes that it depends on the situation in order to decide whether disobeying or obeying would be appropriate. Dalrymple describes the stereotype of people who always choose to act against authority from a psychological standpoint. People choose to perform submissive behavior even if they do not wish to because they are afraid of the consequences even if that means harming one another in order to please authority.

In the article Why Defense Lawyers Defend Killers and Rapists by Abbe Smith the idea about how innocent until proven guilty is displayed. Defense attorneys have to defend these people even if it goes against their beliefs, because it is their job. With having a job comes money. Money is the root of power, money drives people to do unthinkable things, including killing and/or raping an individual. So, why do they set cruel people free, and lock good people up? Is it because the power has gotten to their heads or is it because people are cruel in their own ways? Smith states that “our motivations are usually personal and sometimes difficult to articulate”. This is answering the question proposed from Just Do What the Pilot Tells You about why submissive people are less leineit about changing their minds, even if it would be the right thing to do. It explains how defending is different from lying. It explains how although they may have done wrong they are still people and even though most times they are proven to be guilty all truth must be told.

In the article What is Power and How does it Affect People by Ana Guinote the concept of how power corrupts minds , and leads to selfish behavior, due to the sense of entitlement is argued. Power has the ability to control people’s thought , feelings and actions. It also illustrates concepts of power holders, power relationships and power satisfaction. Power holders act at will, and will readily carry out desires to meet their goals. Power relationships show how the powerless individual pays close attention to the authority, talk less and often times have lack of control. Power satisfaction seems to be the main point. It demonstrates ways people act while in power. Power corrupts minds and leads to selfish behavior due to their sense of entitlement. This is one reason why people believe authority even if they are lying or disregarding their moral values. They don’t think about others before themselves. Having authority over individuals allows a person to accomplish their goals and needs easier, than one without power. In the relationship between superiors and subordinates the powerless individual follows the leader in order to feel secure. These social inequalities are challenging to change because people enjoy having power. It is a sense of freedom that helps gain a higher position on the social ladder.

In the article How does Power Affect the Powerful, Bryce Nelson expresses ideas that one one loses power they lose people. In order to keep followers you need to stay in higher standing. Stress and depression often come with power, but also sensitivity. For example a boss might be completely okay with giving out a christmas bonus, but once it comes to firing an employee he asks someone under him to do his “dirty work”. This explains how a person of higher standing has fears just like their subordinates.

There are many different types of power as shown by the articles. In What is Power and How does it Affect People you see the selfish behavior from members of authority that was also seen in The Stanford Prison Experiment by the prisoner test subjects. As well as How does Power Affect the Powerful, because it demonstrates examples about how people of a higher stand will force another individual under them to do their “dirty work” rather than making themselves look like the bad guy. One form of power is power through relationship. This is a key point in What is Power and How does it Affect People that is made clear by explaining that people are followers of authority, if he or she loses her social standing, they become practically nothing. The first thoughts that come to mind when we think of authority are power, obedience, and leadership. Likewise in The Stanford Prison Experiment the prisoners obeyed the “officers”, and even though they knew they were only acting for the sake of the experiment, they responded in obediently because the so called authoritative test subjects had the ability to punish them if and when they felt necessary. In Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem it is explained that people find it easier to give power to those that are born with or into power rather than those that gain power. People were supposedly created equal meaning equal recognition and equal respect or at least that what we thought. Erich Fromm describes the concept that if you disobey you are rebel in society and if you obey the you are a slave to authority. People follow what the majority of people do. Leaders were once followers that earned there way up but most people don’t even trust their own leader. As shown in How does Power Affect the Powerful and Why Defense Lawyers Defend Killers and Rapists you see that power can make people do unbearable things caused by the over sense of confidence that authority brings. A little goes a long way with power usually resulting in corruption or cruelty. An individual’s human conscious is the voice present in everyone’s mind based on facts of past, present, and future generations. It is the simply understanding and ability to form an opinion about oneself. If people would learn to say no to authority. Stop being submissive towards a person of higher standing. Those who choose to not be sucked in the seductive comforts of obedience, and choose to stray away from the follower problem, could have a larger say and be able to make a difference in their society and prove that authority doesn’t always mean power, but rather that just a sense of entitlement.

Power is a status quo that humans feel the need to inherit, in order to feel wanted by their peers. It is fought over by those who want it and feared by those who have little to none of it. Authoritative figures have major impacts on both individuals and other members of authority through conformity, obedience, fear, and peer pressure.

Power Over Individuals essay

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