Social Deviance

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Discuss how members of a military unit could openly bring themselves to commit murder against some individuals and not feel any sense of deviance or criminal wrongdoing for the act. Be sure to include ideas from the work of Stanley Milgram in your answer.

Many view murder as the malicious taking of human life. Murder during wartime in which one armed service member takes the life of an opposing armed service member is justified by military orders and beliefs. Of course, it is not always so clear. The rules of war are ever changing. The inspiration for social scientist Stanley Milgram’s work was the acts of Nazis during World War II. His experiments showed how obeying authority could supersede the thoughts of personal conscience. His experiments on obedience showed subjects appearing to inflict electrical shocks to another person on the instruction of an authority figure. The results of the experiment were that repeatedly people were willing continually to administer the shocks for no personal gain or loss, on the instruction of an authority figure. Milgram also worked with Solomon Asch on understanding conformity. Two theories developed. The first is the theory of conformism, which explores the central correlation between an individual and the group to which they belong. It names the group is the individual’s model for behavior. The second concept is the agentic state theory. The agentic theory is that the subject comes to see himself or herself as an instrument of another person or an institution. They stop feeling responsible for their actions. Once that happens the person is obedient. In attempting to answer the question, “how members of a military unit could openly bring themselves to commit murder against some individuals and not feel any sense of deviance or criminal wrongdoing for the act,” I thought it would be beneficial to conduct some short interviews with some members of the military. I interviewed seven men. All opted to...
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