Breath of Clarity

Obedience’s Impact on Society

The texts we’ve analyzed in this course stress that with obedience comes the strengthening of societal norms. The article “Ideology and Terror” explains the consequences of impotence (a powerless feeling experienced by those who lack power to make social and economic change). The people surrender because they recognize their lack of influence. The ultimate response is to step back and resort to norms. This essay explores the ways obedience is beneficial and negative to society.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx stresses the urgency for disobedience in order to revive the strength of our economy. Marx claims that without class conflict, capitalism won’t work. Every conflict in history sprouted from class struggles and it makes social change happen because economic inequality is the driving force of change. Capitalism drives the two existent classes apart and middle-class gets sucked into the proletariat and the elites gain more power; so, social mobility becomes increasingly difficult. Marx critiques this civilization that turns more people into low-wage workers and calling it civilization. Marx argues that the majority of proletarians need to exhibit revolutionary consciousness in order to save themselves. The class that capitalism created can overthrow it. If the lower class comes together, through labor strikes for example, then the system can be overthrown.

In the article “The Functions of Crime,” Emile Durkheim attests to the claim that disobedience aids the function of society. However, Durkheim’s theory ultimately outlines the ways that obedience is positive for society because crime creates a socio-economic boundary that encourages individuals to be followers of the law instead of rebels. Society with a strong collective conscience usually has strong legal punishment, which instills fear and encourages a marking of certain individuals as outsiders who break the law.

This creates a boundary in society, which Durkheim claims, most importantly functions to unify those who follow the law. This community determines the circumstances in which killing is justified, such as in combat or for religious sacrifice. The punishment to those who disrespect certain values instills a fear in the followers, which as a result reaffirm social norms. Durkheim states, “crime is necessary because it encourages respect for individual dignity and fuels normal evolution of law” (137). Though, Durkheim contradicts his own argument in his claim that in order for the evolution of morality and law to occur, “the collective sentiments at the basis must not be hostile to change” (138). In order for any sort of revolution to occur, people need to be willing to disobey the current standard thought.

In the article “Religion in Post-Protestant America,” Peter Berger explains that the conflict evolved from religious pluralism is necessary because “present-day America is a very different place from the America which the Constitution was written” (236). Religious obedience fails to acknowledge the difference in culture and morals that exist within the United States. Berger states, “there were simply too many different groups, too many religio-political interests, for any single one to establish dominance” (237). The patterns of immigration drove change that established the end of Protestant social and cultural dominance. Berger contends that “it becomes more difficult to motivate people to make sacrifices for any collective purpose” when their values don’t align. Many of the religio-political progressive eruptions such as the civil rights movement and anti-war movement with leftwing ideas showed that people who are not restricted to a mindset founded in historical tradition are liberated to make positive change.