A powerful explanation of the word coercion. I admire your clarity. I have a problem that you do not address. Some people think they are coerced into a behavior, when in fact, they are the author of the situation. Point in fact, when a man and a woman decide to have sex and a pregnancy results, some men and some women refuse to take responsibility for that pregnancy and the child suffers the consequences. Coercion by family, friends, society, the law come down hard on such behavior. Yet, those individuals claim they are coerced.
Of course, family violence is an easy one to recognize. A family member assaults another and calls it discipline. Society frowns upon such violence and the assaulter claim, "He/she made me do it", thinking that justifies the coercion. That fallacy continues, even today, with all the public awareness that exists.
Even worse, such upstanding paragons f virtue, i.e. James C. Dobson, Ph.D., and Focus on the Family, advocate spanking of children to the point that it hurts. What does that mean?
“Our society gives wide berth to obvious pathology when it is covered by religious language.”
~ The Right Reverend John Shelby Spong
“Wide pathology” certainly defines the dogmatic leaders of the politicized Christian Right, especially the unholy trinity of Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. Perversely, the propaganda organ of Wildmon and the AFA is “Agape Press.”
"Rev. Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, has a malignant, pathological hate for gay Americans and even their children. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sheldon argued against giving aid to the surviving members of gay and lesbian partnerships, many of whom had children. Is that what an agape man would do?""Sheldon got his nickname “Lucky Louie” from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff: The Rev. Lou Sheldon, the anti-gay leader of the California-based Traditional Values Coalition, but star lobbyist Jack Abramoff – now the sultan of pleading guilty – knew Sheldon as “Lucky Louie.”
Short version: I really don't have all the answers. But I'm working on it!
I forget the person (Maybe Justice John Marshall?) who wrote that undesirable consequences aren't basis to claim coercion. The idea was that coercion only counts as an influence.
But even then it can look like the chicken and the egg, especially in today's society.
I really want more smart people thinking and writing about this. I'm sure all the problems are solvable within the context of non-violence. I have hypothesis but not yet anything concrete.
It is my belief that a primary reason that more people aren't working on these problems is because it can be so difficult to conceptualize practical application of the principles of non-violence. For this I turn to the experts in bringing imagination to life.
One idea of how all this might work is the story "The Country of the Kind" by Damon Knight in 1956. This story is from the perspective of the criminal about crime and punishment in society that takes non-coercion to the extreme.
Another idea is "...And Then There Were None" by Eric Frank Russell in 1962. This story demonstrates one way in which a society committed to peace would handle aggressors.
What about moral use of self defense? "The Weapon Shop" by A. E. Van Voght. This really illustrates how a person concerned with morality might use force and coercion in a manner consistent with a non-violent ethos.
Of course these stories are fantasy. We need real answers. And soon.
I have the both the 1981 version of Dobson's book "Dare to Discipline" and the more recent "New Dare to Discipline". Many ideas have changed but his fundamental thesis is that the parent-child relationship is always adversarial and that effective discipline means the parent wins. The idea being that when the parent wins the child also 'wins', though this is unsubstantiated. This is important, he writes, "because the child's relationship to his parents provides the basis for his attitude toward all other people."
Using his own reasoning, this means Dobson wants kids raised to expect one party to "lovingly" dominate the other party. Through violence.
Now, compare this with the ideas of Benjamin Spock. On one premise he agrees with Dobson: the child-parent relationship shapes the child-society relationship. Spock writes, "Physical punishment certainly plays a role in our acceptance of violence. If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start."
So here we have the two leading pediatricians of this century fundamentally disagreeing. Dr. Spock fell out of favor during the 70's because his books on parenting were blamed for the anti-Vietnam movement. Indeed if you read in the very beginning of Dobsons 1981 book you find him blaming what he calls "permissiveness" for the "civil disobedience".
What high praise! If a generation of kids raised without violence rejected war then this is unequivocally what we need, no, MUST do in the future!
Coercion and violence are not equivalent. Many forms of coercion are entirely non-violent—fines for traffic violations or parents grounding teens for example. In fact often coercion in the form of threat is a good substitute for more violent remedies. In modern society moral or economic threats are common ways of securing compliance. Violence is rarely justified, but coercion often is justified.
Sir, the very definition of the word includes violence or threat thereof. Coercion without violence, force, or threat can hardly be called coercion.
Threats need not be threats of violence. Threats of fines or restrictions are often sufficient.
Quite so. But I would more properly label that situation as something other than coercion. Saying non-violent coercion is like saying consensual rape.
David Rushkoff has titled his book about marketing to consumers Coercion. It is about (non-violent) techniques marketers use to get consumers to bypass their better judgment and buy products.
You need to let him know that in your view he is not using the word correctly at all. I'm sure the book can be recalled and renamed.
Fascinating. I followed that link and read an excerpt from the book. He does indeed use the word in a way foreign to it's definition. It might be that the popular usage of the word has evolved away from the rigid definition.
At any rate why use the word coercion if it is now so ill-defined? It certainly puts people like me in a strange position of using bulky language in order to remain precise.
Actually, I think I was quite clear that I was using the dictionary definition of the word. I don't really care if an author is using the word for sensationalism.
The etymology of the word coerce provides a good clue to its meaning and usage. It comes from a Latin verb coercere which means "to enclose on all sides, surround, encompass." It probably arose as a military term—once a unit was surrounded on all sides, it was totally constrained.
Modern lexicography views dictionary definitions as a record of how a word is used, not as a permanent injunction against other uses. The kind of force involved in coercion may be as mild as intimidation by someone's authority.
There is a stream of parenting books that are based on different philosophies. Let me see if I can remember the details on this topic.
Freud, maintained that the unconscious was composed of repressed, traumatic childhood experiences that involved the clash of emerging instinctual needs and the oppressive reality of the family and society.
Jung, believed the collective unconscious underlay the conscious and behaviour was motivated by future goals as well as by past experiences.
Adler, affirmed behavior was motivated by the desire for perfection.
These are way oversimplified explanations of the different philosophies. To continue,
Basic Adlerian Concepts
Children are social beings
A child's behavior is goal oriented
A child's primary goal is to belong and feel significant
A misbehaving child is a discouraged child
Social interest or responsibility, a desire to contribute
A child is equal in value to adults
Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Make sure the message of love gets through
I liked Adler's approach and followed a trail through his disciples. That led me to Dinkmeyer and McKay and Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. They believed behavior was motivated by the need to belong.
Four Goals of Misbehavior
Undue Attention - All children desire and need attention. But a child who needs attention all the time will resort to behavior to keep others busy with him or get special treatment. Parents will feel annoyed, irritated, worried and/or guilty. The parent responds by scolding or warnings and the child is temporarily satisfied but not for long.
Power - For some children their mistaken goal is to be in charge and be the "boss". By their misbehavior they are saying "I am in control" or "You can't make me". Parents feel provoked, challenged, angry, threatened and/or defeated and will meet the child in a power struggle. If the parent gives in the child "wins" and stops the behavior until the next power struggle arises.
Revenge - These children often feel they have been hurt or that they can never win in a power struggle. They feel the only way to belong is to get even. Parents feel hurt, disappointed, disbelieving, disgusted and rejected by this form of misbehavior.
Assumed Inadequacy - Often a child will just give up displaying helplessness. They want to be left alone so they have no expectations to live up to. Parents feel like giving up, doing for, over helping and helpless to do anything. For many children this form of misbehavior is displayed only in certain areas like homework or activities.
These four goals of misbehavior give parents the clues they need to redirect their children and help them find positive ways to achieve their need to belong. Understanding that children are not consciously plotting their misbehavior but it is based on a child's mistaken goal, goes a long way in promoting a respectful parenting style.
To identify the mistaken goal parents ask themselves 3 questions.
1. When your child misbehaves, how do YOU feel?
2. What do you as the parent most often do in response to the misbehavior?
3. What does your child do in response?
To get back to the topic of coercion, in parenting, as in teaching, coercion always backfires. Depending on the needs of the child, he or she will use misbehavior. Notice no form of coercion is mentioned. No spanking. No standing in corners, No taking away toys.
End of Part 1
You may have put your finger on the main difficulty with the philosophy of Ayn Rand. As a refugee from communism she saw only one side of socialization and in reaction she overemphasized individuality. Unquestionably there is tension between the individual and the group: the individual surrenders some freedom in exchange for the benefits of group living—and they are substantial.
Edward O. Wilson explains it well in his new book The Meaning of Human Existence:
Within groups selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals.
Natural selection occurs at both individual and group levels. Socialization advanced the humanoid species by increasing brain size. To a large extent our species developed because of its growing ability to act cooperatively. That this requires the individual to sacrifice some of his freedom is undoubted, but that was all Rand could see in view of her experience. With intelligent interpretation of the results of recent science, we can do better in our self-understanding.