Crimes of Obedience: Toward a Social Psychology of Authority and Responsibility

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Yale University Press, 1989 - Psychology - 382 pages
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The My Lai massacre, Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair: these are examples of the tendency for people to commit illegal acts when so ordered by authority. This book examines these events and the public's response to them, presenting a major analysis of the rationale behind crimes of obedience. This book explains how individuals in authority can abuse their power by failing to distinguish between discipline and blind obedience. CRIMES OF OBEDIENCE should be required reading for every American citizen.-Senator Daniel K. Inouye This is a major book in social psychology that deserves the attention of both sociological and psychological traditions. With its focus on concepts such as legitimacy and responsibility that bridge the individual and the social system, it is firmly rooted in an interdisciplinary vision of social psychology. In its recognition that resistance to crimes of obedience depends on collective processes, it makes a major contribution to the social psychology of social movements.-William A.Gamson, American Journal of Sociology A patently original, socially compelling, thoroughly scholarly dissection of actions in response to commands by authorities that are morally repugnant to some or many of the participants and the rest of us.-Leonard W. Doob, The Key Reporter

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Crimes of obedience: toward a social psychology of authority and responsibility

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"A crime of obedience is an illegal or immoral act committed in response to orders or directives from authority.'' This stated, the authors, both social psychologists, proceed to examine the My Lai ... Read full review


Persistent Issues
Reactions to the My Lai Massacre
Public Reactions to the Calley Trial
The Cenerality
Individual Differences in Conceptions of Authority
Three Orientations
Findings from the 1971 Survey

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About the author (1989)

Hamilton is a social psychologist who most recently served as professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and as a visiting professor at Chinese University and City University, Hong Kong. Since receiving her Ph.D. in 1975 under Herbert C. Kelman, she has conducted research on responsibility, justice, and mental health during downsizing. She is currently enrolled in a master's program at Duke University Divinity School.

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