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Classicism, Durkheim and Milgram Law and Obedience. CRJ/HOS/SOC 210 Criminology – Victimology Dr. Luzinski. Part 1 ‘Classicism’. Classicism, in the Arts implies a canon or “law” of widely accepted ideal forms

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classicism durkheim and milgram law and obedience

Classicism, Durkheim and MilgramLaw and Obedience


Criminology – Victimology

Dr. Luzinski

part 1 classicism
Part 1 ‘Classicism’
  • Classicism, in the Arts implies a canon or “law” of widely accepted ideal forms
  • It is characterized by adherence to traditional standards (as of simplicity, restraint, and proportion) that are universally and enduringly valid
  • In social science however, classicism is all about common sense abstractions and philosophical speculations!
common sense and philosophy in social science i e criminology

Common Sense and Philosophy in Social Science, i.e. Criminology

Has no place!

S.S. rejects Classicism and adopts Positivism which holds that the scientific method is the best approach to uncovering the processes by which both physical and human events occur.

The concept was developed in the early 19th century by the philosopher and founding sociologist, AugusteComte.

Auguste Comte, (1798–1857)

auguste comte
Auguste Comte
  • His thinking was essentially evolutionary.
  • He recognized a progression in the development of the sciences; starting from mathematics and progressing through astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology towards the ultimate goal of sociology.
  • He saw this progression reflected in man's mental development.
    • This had proceeded from a theological stage to a metaphysical one and now
  • Comte now sought to help inaugurate the final scientific or positivistic era.
in its strongest formulation positivism could be thought of as a set of five principles
In its strongest formulation, positivism could be thought of as a set of five principles:
  • The unity of the scientific method – i.e., the logic of inquiry is the same across all sciences (social and natural).
  • The goal of inquiry is to explain and predict. Most positivists would also say that the ultimate goal is to develop the law of general understanding, by discovering necessary and sufficient conditions for any phenomenon (creating a perfect model of it). If the law is known, we can manipulate the conditions to produce the predicted result.
  • Scientific knowledge is testable. Research can be proved only by empirical means, not argumentations. Research should be mostly deductive, i.e. deductive logic is used to develop statements that can be tested (theory leads to hypothesis which in turn leads to discovery and/or study of evidence). Research should be observable with the human senses (arguments are not enough, sheer belief is out of the question). Positivists should prove their research using the logic of confirmation.
  • Science does not equal common sense. Researchers must be careful not to let common sense bias their research.
  • The relation of theory to practice – science should be as value-free as possible, and the ultimate goal of science is to produce knowledge, regardless of any politics, morals, or values held by those involved in the research. Science should be judged by logic, and ideally produce universal conditionals:
if a b and b c then a c
If A= B and B= C-- then A=C
  • Statements must be true for all times and places.
  • For example, most contemporary social researchers (i.e criminologists) do not believe in the existence of general social laws (common sense).
emile durkheim the father of sociology
Emile Durkheimthe Father of Sociology
  • A true social science should stress for empirical facts, as well as induce general scientific laws from the relationship among these facts.
  • I.e. the Positivist Thesis.
    • First, he accepted that the study of society was to be founded on an examination of facts.
    • Second, he acknowledged that the only valid guide to objective knowledge was the scientific method.
    • Third, he agreed with Comte that the social sciences could become scientific only when they were stripped of their metaphysical abstractions and philosophical speculation.

April 15, 1888 November 15, 1917

1 durkheim crime pervades all types of societies
1. Durkheim: Crime Pervades All Types of Societies
  • Crime is constant, though its form/content and extent varies
  • Crime is increasing in modern societies (300% in France in Durkheim’s time)
  • Crime therefore must be seen as a normal part of collective life and societies
2 durkheim crime is normal and necessary
2. Durkheim: Crime is Normal and Necessary
  • A society exempt from crime is impossible because of the very nature of crime is it is an act that offends strong society (moral values, i.e. mala in se)
  • Since society has at its root a moral order predicated on specific collective values, as long as those societies exist, certain acts will always potentially be offensive
in order for a serious crime such as murder
In order for a “serious” crime such as murder
  • …to be eliminated, indignation against it throughout society would have to become extremely strong
  • Yet even as a “serious” crime like murder was eliminated, society would then become more intolerant of “less” serious crimes such as assaults or robberies, and the cycle would continue
  • Thus, it may be in our collective interests to allow such things as murder to persist!
hence durkheim notes
Hence Durkheim notes
  • Even a society of Saints would have “crime” although it would be nothing we recognize: crime would consist of minor, very trivial offenses
  • Beyond this is the fact that collective values cannot be shared to the exact same degree among all members of the group: i.e. there cannot be a society in which every individual is identical and equivalent to every other person in every possible way
because of that it is irony that
Because of that it is irony that…
  • There will always be some member of the group less attached to certain values than are other persons
  • Thus some persons are more willing to commit deviance and become deviant.
3 durkheim crime is functional
3. Durkheim: Crime is Functional
  • Healthy societies must be able to adapt to change and so must be capable of change
  • This means the society must not be so rigid that its alteration would be impossible or social change could not occur. Think of Shariah Law
  • Think about this…yet for crime to be totally eliminated, society’s norms and collective values have to be so absolutely rigid and universally adhered to as to make any social innovation impossible
    • This means, there cannot be any deviance!
  • Therefore crime is a normal thing in healthy societies!
hence the function of crime
Hence the function of crime
  • Is that some acts that are offensive to society today may become predictors or harbingers of a new, progressive moral order later.
  • Durkheim cites the example of Socrates.
    • Contemporary examples include acts of civil disobedience – crimes at the time – reflected in the civil rights movement and the person Martin Luther King
part ii
Part II
  • The Milgram Experiments 1967
  • Obedience to Authority!
  • A “Learner” is seated in an adjacent room next to Test subject and experimenter,
  • Learner is strapped in an “electric chair,” and appears to be connected to the simulated shock generator in the next room
  • The Test Subject believes that he is actually shocking learner, but learner is just acting.



  • Subject is given a list of questions, involving memory and words, to teach a learner
    • Learner: a hired actor; subject: unaware of this
  • If the Learner gets the question wrong, subject is instructed by the experimenter to administer a shock
    • Shock increases in voltage as more Q’s are answered incorrectly.
  • As shocks increase, learner acts as if he is feeling increasing pain
  • 300v: learner pounds on the walls and stops answering all further questions (Milgram, 1963)
basics continued
Basics (continued)
  • If subject tries to quit, experimenter gives verbal prod to continue. 3 more prods are given for each successive refusal
    • 1: “Please continue.” or “Please go on.”
    • 2: “The experiment requires that you continue.”
    • 3: “It is absolutely essential that you continue.”
    • 4: “You have no other choice, you must go on.”
  • After fourth prod, if subject still will not continue, experimenter stops experiment. This is called the Rupture Point. (Milgram, 1963)
observations of the milgram experiment
Observations of the Milgram Experiment
  • Out of the 40 subjects, 65% followed orders to the end (administering maximum 450v shock)
    • This level of electricity is lethal
    • Predicted that only 0-3% would go this far
  • All participants went past anticipated break-off point of 300v (Milgram, 1963)
controversy and questions
Controversy and Questions
  • Milgram’s experiment raised considerable controversy
    • This involved ethical criticism and…
  • How did 40 rational people end up obeying authority to such an extreme??
ethics and morality
Milgram (1963) concluded "the conflict stems from...the disposition not to harm other people...and...the tendency to obey...legitimate authorities."

There are new views now:

Shift in Responsibility (Milgram, 1974) (Miller et al, 1995)

Malevolent authority perceived as benevolent (Nissani, 1990, 1992, 1994)

Break between Judgment and Action (Turiel, 1983)

Corruption of moral judgment (Bersoff, 1999)

Social consensus affecting judgment (Singer, 1998)

Ethics and Morality
shift in responsibility i am just an instrument it is the authority to blame
Shift in ResponsibilityI am just an instrument: it is the authority to blame.
  • Milgram (1974) says: obedience is when a person is an instrument and thus no longer responsible.
  • To disobey, you must become a person again.
  • Difficult to get out:
    • Self-generated commitment (Miller et al., 1995)
    • Politeness
    • Awkwardness
    • Absorption
    • Depersonalization (Milgram, 1974)
good boss bad boss malevolent authority perceived as benevolent
Good Boss; Bad BossMalevolent authority perceived as benevolent
  • Conceptual Conservatism - tendency to hold onto beliefs even after they're refuted. (Nissani, 1994)
  • When people thought experiment was executed by a private firm, obedience went 65% to 48% (Milgram, 1974).
    • Original experiment was Ivy League
  • Nissani (1990) asserts that "people cannot be counted realize that a seemingly benevolent authority is in fact malevolent."
  • Why? Conceptual conservatism.
break between judgment and action the strength of super ego
Break Between Judgment and ActionThe Strength of super-ego
  • Super-ego – consciousness, the unconscious sense of morality.
  • Unethical action occurs when:
    • Conventional needs are more pressing than morals
    • Moral action too difficult to carry out (because of a lack of “ego-strength”)
  • Essentially, you know it’s wrong, but you don’t have the inner strength to stand up against it. (Bersoff, 1999)
corruption of moral judgment what bersoff was really talking about
Corruption of Moral JudgmentWhat Bersoff was really talking about
  • Bersoff (1999) proposed "a person can....act immorally simply because he...failed to see...his...action[s]...[are]...unethical."
  • How does this happen?
    • Self interest "corrupts" judgment of ethicality
    • Selective evidence strengthens initial response, later evidence is interpreted that way too
  • Corruption of responsibility: "It's someone else's job."
social consensus affecting judgment i like him
Social Consensus affecting JudgmentI like him.
  • Social consensus - society's view on the morality of the action (Singer, 1998)
  • Singer (1998) showed that social consensus had a large effect in judgments
    • Other factors (including magnitude, timing, or the likelihood of the moral action) showed little to no effect
  • Ethicality is often equated to fairness (Singer, 1998).
  • When there were dissidents, the disobedience rate rose.
  • The desire to conform