Compliance in unjust system

Sharon Erickson Nepstad, Nonviolent Struggle: Theories, Strategies, and Dynamics, 2015

…if the solution is simply refusing to cooperate with an unjust system, why are so many people compliant?  Why do they obey ruthless and corrupt leaders?  There are numerous reasons why citizens comply with oppressive systems.  To begin with, people are taught to be obedient from a young age.  We are told to obey our parents, teachers, religious leaders, and the law.  By the time we reach adulthood, it is a deeply ingrained habit.  Others are obedient for instrumental purposes since authorities often reward compliant individuals.  Another reason for obedience is the fear of sanctions.  Citizens may not want to risk arrest, imprisonment, or other punishments.  Others may believe that they have a moral or religious obligation to comply.  Finally, citizens may feel a sense of resignation.  They may not believe that resistance will make a difference; indeed, they may have no hope that the future can be better.

Due to widespread obedience, a significant part of any resistance struggle…is to break through these culture and ideological barriers that keep people compliant.


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