Home > Americas, Conflict & Security, Politics, USA > Legitimacy, Interrogation and Torture

Legitimacy, Interrogation and Torture

The Situationist recently referenced the social psychologist Tom Tyler’s research on the causes and effects of legitimacy:

“Legitimacy is a psychological property of an authority, institution, or social arrangement that leads those connected to it to believe that it is appropriate, proper, and just. Because of legitimacy, people feel that they ought to defer to decisions and rules, following them voluntarily out of obligation rather than out of fear of punishment or anticipation of reward. Being legitimate is important to the success of authorities, institutions, and institutional arrangements since it is difficult to exert influence over others based solely upon the possession and use of power. Being able to gain voluntary acquiescence from most people, most of the time, due to their sense of obligation increases effectiveness during periods of scarcity, crisis, and conflict. The concept of legitimacy has a long history within social thought and social psychology, and it has emerged as increasingly important within recent research on the dynamics of political, legal, and social systems.”

The Situationist article also includes selections from an interview with a veteran US Air Force interrogator, Steven Kleinman, by Newsweek. “Kleinman was asked about how “interrogations today differ from the World War II programs you studied” and he explained that there was an elaborate process of determining who was interrogating and who did the interrogating. For instance, the interrogators] ‘were not 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds. These were people who came off the college campus as professors, as lawyers, successful business people. They had all traveled overseas, spoke flawless German, understood the culture, the history of the European continent, just some really bright people—not pure military folks, but people who had responded to the call’.”

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