Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept, and Corrupt Systems?

Corrupt Legislation

Detail from Corrupt Legislation. Mural by Elihu Vedder (1896).

Via ScienceDaily:

Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in — a government, company, or marriage — even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust?

A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend the status quo — a process called “system justification.”System justification isn’t the same as acquiescence, explains Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. “It’s pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be.”

Reviewing laboratory and cross-national studies, the paper illuminates four situations that foster system justification: system threat, system dependence, system inescapability, and low personal control …

Read more here.

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  • Hadrian999

    people are programmed to identify themselves as part of the system, to admit that the system is flawed or corrupt is to admit that they are flawed and corrupt, I swear there is no hope for us when most of us prefer to live as livestock that lovingly embrace the slaughterhouse

  • Hadrian999

    people are programmed to identify themselves as part of the system, to admit that the system is flawed or corrupt is to admit that they are flawed and corrupt, I swear there is no hope for us when most of us prefer to live as livestock that lovingly embrace the slaughterhouse

  • Hadrian999

    people are programmed to identify themselves as part of the system, to admit that the system is flawed or corrupt is to admit that they are flawed and corrupt, I swear there is no hope for us when most of us prefer to live as livestock that lovingly embrace the slaughterhouse

  • Allforone

    I would have to say a lot of people enjoy the drama and like getting ‘beat up’ , mentally and physically.  In reality  a corrupt system generates a mass amount of money for certain individuals and keeps the masses in check.  I love the way the U.S uses a state of emergency decree… in our case fear of pseudo terrorists to generate laws like the National Defense and Authorization Act and  multiple agencies like the TSA, DHS, CIA.  These recent events remind me of the Gestapo and Hitler’s Enabling Act.  And remember U.S minimum wage is just a smoke screen for a legalized slave trade. At least the minimum wage slaves don’t get the gas chambers,  they just go home to a slow death….  Being hypnotized by daytime TV and Video games. 

  • Allforone

    I would have to say a lot of people enjoy the drama and like getting ‘beat up’ , mentally and physically.  In reality  a corrupt system generates a mass amount of money for certain individuals and keeps the masses in check.  I love the way the U.S uses a state of emergency decree… in our case fear of pseudo terrorists to generate laws like the National Defense and Authorization Act and  multiple agencies like the TSA, DHS, CIA.  These recent events remind me of the Gestapo and Hitler’s Enabling Act.  And remember U.S minimum wage is just a smoke screen for a legalized slave trade. At least the minimum wage slaves don’t get the gas chambers,  they just go home to a slow death….  Being hypnotized by daytime TV and Video games. 

  • Michael

    Because their in a conforming hypnotized stupor, their education system is rigged and they fear the governing body that rules them. 

    As a free thinking individual who was raised to think for themselves and realize anything is possible. This denial that I see all around me makes little to no sense. I accept a possibility before it presents itself to me as fact. I don’t ever think “this could never happen” because of a million straw man arguments. I want to know whats going on regardless of how horrible and despicable it is.  

  • Michael

    Because their in a conforming hypnotized stupor, their education system is rigged and they fear the governing body that rules them. 

    As a free thinking individual who was raised to think for themselves and realize anything is possible. This denial that I see all around me makes little to no sense. I accept a possibility before it presents itself to me as fact. I don’t ever think “this could never happen” because of a million straw man arguments. I want to know whats going on regardless of how horrible and despicable it is.  

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5OQFBZ26C3VQ5ONGZGDBDY4BUU Mark A

    Every system works for someone in the system, or it would be changed. Cut the power of the 1% that controls our system and we can improve the system from within. Otherwise, we’re screwed.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5OQFBZ26C3VQ5ONGZGDBDY4BUU Mark A

    Every system works for someone in the system, or it would be changed. Cut the power of the 1% that controls our system and we can improve the system from within. Otherwise, we’re screwed.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s face it:  Reality can be a brutal, horrifying thing.  Of course most of us are tempted to take the path of least resistance.

    On the up side, though, it gets radically less terrifying when you realize that most of the evils of the world are wrought out of ignorance and fear of people who, individually, are just as powerless as you.  Maybe, once a critical mass of people realize this, we can all stop the Fear Arms Race and work together constructively to make a better life.

    Maybe.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Let’s face it:  Reality can be a brutal, horrifying thing.  Of course most of us are tempted to take the path of least resistance.

    On the up side, though, it gets radically less terrifying when you realize that most of the evils of the world are wrought out of ignorance and fear of people who, individually, are just as powerless as you.  Maybe, once a critical mass of people realize this, we can all stop the Fear Arms Race and work together constructively to make a better life.

    Maybe.

  • truth hurts

    to paraphrase Plato, people have a love of “knowledge”. that is to say they love what they know and are familiar with, and they fear the unknown. people are afraid of real, actual change, so they perpetuate what they know, no matter how bad it gets. they are simply unable to imagine life without the corruption, the system, the misery, etc. start thinking for yourself, and shed the preconceived ideals that were given to you by your masters in order to degrade and control you. step out of the cave and look around…

  • truth hurts

    to paraphrase Plato, people have a love of “knowledge”. that is to say they love what they know and are familiar with, and they fear the unknown. people are afraid of real, actual change, so they perpetuate what they know, no matter how bad it gets. they are simply unable to imagine life without the corruption, the system, the misery, etc. start thinking for yourself, and shed the preconceived ideals that were given to you by your masters in order to degrade and control you. step out of the cave and look around…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HOIP7V4NBTEONPL3332WMN2P7E C.

    Blessings to ALL Always!
    Forgive. Heal. Bless. Love. (and don’t get it twisted because “Forgive” includes to learn and be wise to no longer allow bullshit/nonsense to continue.)

    Let’s focus our energy on what we desire and stop focusing our energy on what we don’t want/fear/etc.

    We are creating whatever is to come our way.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HOIP7V4NBTEONPL3332WMN2P7E C.

    Blessings to ALL Always!
    Forgive. Heal. Bless. Love. (and don’t get it twisted because “Forgive” includes to learn and be wise to no longer allow bullshit/nonsense to continue.)

    Let’s focus our energy on what we desire and stop focusing our energy on what we don’t want/fear/etc.

    We are creating whatever is to come our way.

  • ap-db

    Go back further in time to early 90s/late 80s: George Akerlof, “Procrastination & Obedience”, a classic paper on the negative tendencies of people to do things against their better judgement. In it he discusses why people tend to stick w/ dysfunctional systems (including bureaucracies & religious cults). http://www.scribd.com/doc/39228458/Procrastination-and-Obedience-George-a-Akerlof

  • ap-db

    Go back further in time to early 90s/late 80s: George Akerlof, “Procrastination & Obedience”, a classic paper on the negative tendencies of people to do things against their better judgement. In it he discusses why people tend to stick w/ dysfunctional systems (including bureaucracies & religious cults). http://www.scribd.com/doc/39228458/Procrastination-and-Obedience-George-a-Akerlof

  • Anarchy Pony

    People like “security”. If they view their society as bringing them security, and order, even if it is corrupt, they generally will favor and defend it against the uncertainty of revolution. There is of course much to be said about the propaganda generated by and for any society’s power elite, and how it skews and warps people’s perception of the society as a whole and what their morals and values should be. 
    The rethuglicans like newt have been blathering on and on about how talking about income inequality and social inequity is un-american, practically a capital offense in the heartland, and americans have been spoon fed their whole lives, garbage about how america is the greatest country ever, with the best system of governance and commerce (or the least worst anyway) so to be un-american is a nasty unmentionable thing.
    And you can also view it the way Derrick Jensen framed it in A Language Older Than Words and Culture of Make Believe were in the relationship between people and the dominant culture is very similar to an abusive personal relationship, where the culture is either your best friend because you do everything it asks of you or tells you to do, or it is your worst enemy for daring to defy its wishes. You can see it in the governmental reaction to OWS. People daring to act or just speak out against the dominant culture get the shit kicked out of them. It can break your things and take from you with impunity, and if you defy it it reacts with overwhelming force. Most citizens are likely in denial about it telling themselves that if they just conform to societal expectations then there is no problem, ignoring the consequences levied against them for the alternative.

  • Anarchy Pony

    People like “security”. If they view their society as bringing them security, and order, even if it is corrupt, they generally will favor and defend it against the uncertainty of revolution. There is of course much to be said about the propaganda generated by and for any society’s power elite, and how it skews and warps people’s perception of the society as a whole and what their morals and values should be. 
    The rethuglicans like newt have been blathering on and on about how talking about income inequality and social inequity is un-american, practically a capital offense in the heartland, and americans have been spoon fed their whole lives, garbage about how america is the greatest country ever, with the best system of governance and commerce (or the least worst anyway) so to be un-american is a nasty unmentionable thing.
    And you can also view it the way Derrick Jensen framed it in A Language Older Than Words and Culture of Make Believe were in the relationship between people and the dominant culture is very similar to an abusive personal relationship, where the culture is either your best friend because you do everything it asks of you or tells you to do, or it is your worst enemy for daring to defy its wishes. You can see it in the governmental reaction to OWS. People daring to act or just speak out against the dominant culture get the shit kicked out of them. It can break your things and take from you with impunity, and if you defy it it reacts with overwhelming force. Most citizens are likely in denial about it telling themselves that if they just conform to societal expectations then there is no problem, ignoring the consequences levied against them for the alternative.

  • Anonymous

    Firstly of course the corruptors themselves are extremely noisy in their defence, using money to buy influence and create the false impression of a far larger support base than actually exists.
    Next of course there are the ignorant who simply believe the lies they are told and are motivated to defend those lies by fear, basically a fear generated by even more lies told by the corruptors.
    Then there are the most foolish of all, those that refuse to admit their stupidity even when they become increasingly aware of their error in judgement and gullibility, they just wont admit they made a mistake and that those pesky liberals knew and understood more about what was really going on.

  • rtb61

    Firstly of course the corruptors themselves are extremely noisy in their defence, using money to buy influence and create the false impression of a far larger support base than actually exists.
    Next of course there are the ignorant who simply believe the lies they are told and are motivated to defend those lies by fear, basically a fear generated by even more lies told by the corruptors.
    Then there are the most foolish of all, those that refuse to admit their stupidity even when they become increasingly aware of their error in judgement and gullibility, they just wont admit they made a mistake and that those pesky liberals knew and understood more about what was really going on.

  • i’m innocent

    wow! there are a lot of good answers in this comment section.  i was just wondering the same thing this afternoon.. the only conclusion i could come up with was that is how some people are raised.  they aren’t taught to think for themselves.

  • i’m innocent

    wow! there are a lot of good answers in this comment section.  i was just wondering the same thing this afternoon.. the only conclusion i could come up with was that is how some people are raised.  they aren’t taught to think for themselves.

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