Synopses & Reviews
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. InouyeThis 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 SociologyA 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
Sergeant William Calley's defense of his behavior in the My Lai massacre and the widespread public support for his argument that he was merely obeying orders from a superior and was not personally culpable led Herbert C. Kelman and V. Lee Hamilton to investigate the attitudes toward responsibility and authority that underlie "crimes of obedience"--not only in military circumstances like My Lai but as manifested in Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the Kurt Waldheim affair. Their book is an ardent plea for the right and obligation of citizens to resist illegal and immoral orders from above.