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Morality in the Making of Sense and Self Stanley Milgram's Obedience Experiments and the New Science of Morality


Morality in the Making of Sense and Self Stanley Milgram's Obedience Experiments and the New Science of Morality

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 07/14/2023
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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For over half a century, Stanley Milgram's classic and controversial obedience experiments have been a touchstone in the social and behavioral sciences, introducing generations of students to the concept of destructive obedience to authority and the Holocaust. In the last decade, the interdisciplinary Milgram renaissance has led to widespread interest in rethinking and challenging the context and nature of his Obedience Experiment.

In Morality in the Making of Sense and Self, Matthew M. Hollander and Jason Turowetz offer a new explanation of obedience and defiance in Milgram's lab. Examining one of the largest collections of Milgram's original audiotapes, they scrutinize participant behavior in not only the experiments themselves, but also recordings of the subsequent debriefing interviews in which participants were asked to reflect on their actions. Introducing an original theoretical framework in the sociology of morality, they show that, contrary to traditional understandings of Milgram's experiments that highlight obedience, virtually all subjects, both compliant and defiant, mobilized practices to resist the authority's commands, such that all were obedient and disobedient to varying degrees. As Hollander and Turowetz show, the precise ways subjects worked out a definition of the situation shaped the choices open to them, how they responded to the authority's demands, and ultimately whether they would be
classified as "obedient" or "defiant."

By illuminating the relationship between concrete moral dilemmas and social interaction, Hollander and Turowetz tell a new, empirically-grounded story about Milgram: one about morality--and immorality--in the making of sense and self.

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