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 System Justification

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: System Justification   Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:14 am

just bumped into this posting on the web. Not sure precisely where to post this.....

Why do people defend unjust, inept, and corrupt systems?
December 12, 2011


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.

When we're threatened we defend ourselves—and our systems. Before 9/11, for instance, President George W. Bush was sinking in the polls. But as soon as the planes hit the World Trade Center, the president's approval ratings soared. So did support for Congress and the police. During Hurricane Katrina, America witnessed FEMA's spectacular failure to rescue the hurricane's victims. Yet many people blamed those victims for their fate rather than admitting the agency flunked and supporting ideas for fixing it. In times of crisis, say the authors, we want to believe the system works.

We also defend systems we rely on. In one experiment, students made to feel dependent on their university defended a school funding policy—but disapproved of the same policy if it came from the government, which they didn't perceive as affecting them closely. However, if they felt dependent on the government, they liked the policy originating from it, but not from the school.

When we feel we can't escape a system, we adapt. That includes feeling okay about things we might otherwise consider undesirable. The authors note one study in which participants were told that men's salaries in their country are 20% higher than women's. Rather than implicate an unfair system, those who felt they couldn't emigrate chalked up the wage gap to innate differences between the sexes. "You'd think that when people are stuck with a system, they'd want to change it more," says Kay. But in fact, the more stuck they are, the more likely are they to explain away its shortcomings. Finally, a related phenomenon: The less control people feel over their own lives, the more they endorse systems and leaders that offer a sense of order.

The research on system justification can enlighten those who are frustrated when people don't rise up in what would seem their own best interests. Says Kay: "If you want to understand how to get social change to happen, you need to understand the conditions that make people resist change and what makes them open to acknowledging that change might be a necessity."

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-12-people-defend-unjust-inept-corrupt.html

Provided by Association for Psychological Science (news : web)
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: System Justification   Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:42 am

Thanks for posting this Josh!

I think that we come to defend the systems that enslave us when we make a personal investment in them.

I think that this can occur through either time and energy spent (as in 40 hours per week, and 50 or so weeks per year...); in our denial about our own level of entrapment; or in our (understandable) failure to recognize our own unconscious conditioning.

My personal belief is that this dynamic results, at root, from our collectively inherited misunderstanding that survival and success require an adversarial competitive struggle against others. This misunderstanding seems to date back some 6,000 years to the advent of empire and its dynamic of war, conquest, domination, oppression, and the exploitation of the many for the purpose of maximizing the status, power, and wealth of the few.

My conviction is that we become trapped in this misunderstanding at the moment at which we conclude that our "dog-eat-dog" worldview is not a belief (which creates the very conditions of adversity that seem to prove it true), but human nature itself.

I also think that this dynamic reflects the well recognized pattern in which survivors of abuse all too readily tend to defend their abusers.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: System Justification   Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:06 pm

great points. that's the big issue for all of us.... we believe our thoughts are the truth, reality -- not just a thought..... thoughts can come and go, but when we believe them, they stick and we can't see anything else.
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PostSubject: Re: System Justification   Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:06 pm

I wanted to post this article from today's NYT about Olympus. It is a good example of institutional blindness, lack of accountability, and defense of the status quo. This certainly can occur anywhere in the world -- not suggesting this only happens in Japan, but Japan and China have a very strong cultural tendency to institutionalize the unquestioned obedience to their elders, father, teachers, leaders, emperors. Adapting Zen to western society has much less to do with eating with forks and knives and chanting in English - and much more about the role of the leader, the right to question authority, the shift from authoritarian rule to democratic inclusion and respect, and and so on.

January 6, 2012
With Olympus Managers Still Entrenched, an Ousted Chief Drops His Sword
By HIROKO TABUCHI


TOKYO — Michael C. Woodford had been an audacious challenger to the staid ways of corporate Japan: a British chief executive, fired after exposing extensive fraud at Olympus — one of Japan’s vaunted blue-chip companies — who took his evidence public and started a proxy fight to win back his job.

But Mr. Woodford ended that bid on Friday, saying he had been unable to garner the support of Olympus’s Japanese institutional investors and creditors.

“Despite one of the biggest scandals in history, the Japanese institutional shareholders have not spoken one single word of criticism, in complete and utter contrast with overseas shareholders, who were demanding accountability,” Mr. Woodford said Friday. “I’m taking the plane and saying goodbye to Japan as a businessman.”

For the Japanese business world, it could prove a damaging conclusion to a scandal that had come to be seen as a test of just how far the country would go to police white-collar crime at Olympus, a maker of cameras and medical endoscopes.

A perceived reluctance on the part of financial regulators to pursue the scandal, as well as the tacit endorsement of the Olympus board by friendly bankers and Japanese institutional shareholders, has reinforced views among foreign investors that entrenched executives in Japan are still able to thwart any attempts at change. The company’s shares have also avoided — for now, at least — a delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, a move that would have decimated shareholder value.

Mr. Woodford said he had instructed his lawyers to prepare to sue Olympus for unfair dismissal. The Olympus board has said that Mr. Woodford was let go because it did not like his aggressive Western management style.

“I got fired and lost my job for doing the right thing, and they’re still there,” Mr. Woodford said.

He said the strain that his long struggle was putting on his family back in England, especially his wife, was also a big consideration in his decision to abandon the fight.

Olympus’s stock market value has dropped by half since Mr. Woodford was fired in mid-October. Its shareholders’ equity has also been exposed as dangerously low, at just 42.9 billion yen ($556 million) at the end of September, casting a shadow over the company’s long-term viability. Many foreign investors have said the current management was tainted and should leave, for the sake of robust corporate governance.

A fund manager in the United States, Southeastern Asset Management, which holds about 5 percent of Olympus’s shares and has been an outspoken critic of the company, previously warned that any attempts by the incumbent board to protect its own interests “would deal a severe blow to the reputation of Japan’s capital markets and corporate governance.” Representatives of the fund manager were not immediately available for comment.

Top Olympus executives acknowledged in November that the company had indeed conducted an effort spanning decades to cover up $1.7 billion in investment losses in a global scheme that has led to investigations by the authorities in Japan, the United States and Britain.

Investigators are looking into what they say is a scheme that began in the 1990s to hide losses by selling bad assets to funds and other entities and later settling those losses through payments masked as acquisition fees.

Three executives implicated by an independent panel have left Olympus over the scandal, but the rest of the board, led by the current chief executive, Shuichi Takayama — a former board member who took the helm of the company in November — has been scrambling to retain control. Olympus has refused to reinstate Mr. Woodford or to offer him an apology.

Instead, Olympus is said to be looking to raise capital from domestic investors, which would dilute the influence of overseas shareholders and make fundamental changes less likely.

Last month, the Nikkei business daily reported that Olympus might issue about 100 billion yen in new preferred shares, and that Japanese companies like Fujifilm and Sony might be possible investors. Those two companies, however, have denied that any such investment was in the works.

Olympus’s biggest lenders, including the Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group​, which also holds an equity stake in the company, have backed the board. Mr. Woodford said the bank had refused to meet with him. Sumitomo Mitsui has refused to comment.

Japan’s system of cross-shareholdings between companies with business ties — like companies and their main banks — means that top executives at Japanese companies face little pressure from investors to improve performance or bolster corporate governance.

Trying to beat that system, Mr. Woodford rallied support among Olympus’s foreign shareholders, setting up a proxy fight with the board. He also lined up a fresh slate of directors, made up of people he said were “impressive” members of the Japanese business community.

The plan, he said, was to present those candidates at a shareholder meeting that the current chief executive, Mr. Takayama, had promised to hold in March or April.

But Mr. Woodford said Friday that he had become convinced that even if he won the proxy fight and returned to the company, the schism between Japanese and foreign shareholders would make any real turnaround impossible.

“It wouldn’t be healthy,” he said. “It was that realization that made me stop.”
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PostSubject: Re: System Justification   Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:27 am

February 11, 2012 - New York Times - opinion piece
The Certainty of Doubt
By CULLEN MURPHY


THE building at No. 11 Piazza del Sant’Uffizio is an imposing ocher-and-white palazzo that stands just inside the gates of Vatican City, behind the southern arc of Bernini’s colonnade. Above the main entrance is a marble scroll. It once held a Latin inscription, placed there in the 16th century, proclaiming that the palazzo had been built as a bulwark against “heretical depravity.” This was the headquarters of the Roman Inquisition, the arm of the Roman Catholic Church that tried Galileo and created the Index of Forbidden Books. You won’t see the inscription above the entrance now — it was chiseled off by French troops during Napoleon’s occupation. All that’s left is some mottled scarring.

The Roman Inquisition was one of several inquisitions conducted under the auspices of the church. These had in common a deeply rooted sense of fear (of heretics, of Jews, of Protestantism) and a deeply rooted moral certainty, a conviction that the cause was not only just but also so urgent that nothing must stand in the way: not practical considerations (workers were diverted from the unfinished St. Peter’s to complete the Inquisition’s palazzo) and certainly not competing considerations of principle or moderation.

That’s the way it is with moral certainty. It sweeps objections aside and makes anything permissible if pursued with an appeal to a higher justification. That higher justification does not need to be God, though God remains serviceable. The higher justification can also be the forces of history. It can be rationalism and science. It can be some assertion of the common good. It can be national security.

The power of the great “isms” of the 20th century — fascism, communism — has dissipated, but moral certainty arises in other forms. Are certain facts and ideas deemed too dangerous? Then perhaps censorship is the answer. (China’s Great Firewall is one example, but let’s not forget that during the past decade, there have been some 4,600 challenges to books in schools and libraries in the United States.) Are certain religions and beliefs deemed intolerable? Then perhaps a few restrictions are in order. (Bills have been introduced in several states to ban recognition of Islamic Shariah law.) In a variety of guises, a conviction of certainty lurks within debates on marriage, on reproduction, on family values, on biotechnology. It peers from behind the question “Is America a Christian nation?”

An “ism” that retains its vitality — terrorism — is justified unapologetically by moral certainty. In a vastly different way, not always recognized, so have been some of the steps taken to combat it. Necessity overrides principle. The inventory of measures advanced in the name of homeland security during the past decade would fill a book. In the United States, the surveillance of citizens and noncitizens alike has become increasingly pervasive. The legal system has been under pressure to constrict protections for the accused. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in December by President Obama despite his own reservations, gives the government enhanced powers to detain, interrogate and prosecute.

In Britain, a new Green Paper on Justice and Security has laid out changes in the legal system that would extend the circumstances in which evidence may be presented secretly in court without being made known to defendants. It would also allow government ministers to withhold from certain court proceedings information that the ministers deem sensitive. Visitors to Britain for this summer’s Olympics will notice the CCTV cameras — there are reportedly more than four million of them — that monitor ordinary daily activity throughout the country. This effort, the most advanced in the world, is supported by the slogan “If You Have Nothing to Hide, You Have Nothing to Fear.”

Meanwhile, to a degree that Americans of a generation ago would never have thought possible, the argument is made that torture can play a legitimate role in interrogation, the practice justified with reference to a greater good (and with the help of semantic fig leaves). Three of the Republican presidential candidates still in the race, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, maintain that waterboarding, which the Inquisition matter-of-factly considered to be torture, really isn’t, and Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum openly support its use. (Mr. Romney hasn’t said what he’d allow.)

The theoretical arguments for torture are slippery and dangerous. The inquisitors of old knew this all too well, and even popes tried to draw the line, to little avail — and in practice torture is more slippery still.

The idea that some single course is right and necessary — and, being right and necessary, must trump everything else, for all our sakes — is a seductive one. Isaiah Berlin knew where this idea of an “ultimate solution” would lead — indeed, had already led in the murderous century he witnessed: “For, if one really believes that such a solution is possible, then surely no cost would be too high to obtain it: to make mankind just and happy and creative and harmonious forever — what could be too high a price to pay for that? To make such an omelet, there is surely no limit to the number of eggs that should be broken. ... If your desire to save mankind is serious, you must harden your heart, and not reckon the cost.”

The French soldiers who erased the inscription from the Inquisition’s palazzo in Rome didn’t know that they were replacing one form of certainty with another — in their case, the certainty of faith with the certainty of reason. The key words here are not “faith” and “reason” but “didn’t know”: the right way forward is always elusive. The drafters of the United States Constitution — fearful of rule by one opinion, whether the tyrant’s or the mob’s — created a governmental structure premised on the idea that human beings are fallible, fickle and unreliable, and in fundamental ways not to be trusted. Triumphalist rhetoric about the Constitution ignores the skeptical view of human nature that underlies it.

A long philosophical tradition in the Roman Catholic Church itself — admittedly, not the one most in evidence today — has long balanced the comfort of certainty against the corrective of doubt. Human beings are fallen creatures. Certitude can be a snare. Doubt can be a helping hand. Consider a list of theologians who have found themselves targets of church discipline — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, John Courtney Murray, Yves Congar — only to be “surrounded with a bright halo of enthusiasm” at some later point, as the late Cardinal Avery Dulles once put it.

Doubt sometimes comes across as feeble and meek, apologetic and obstructionist. On occasion it is. But it’s also a powerful defensive instrument. Doubt can be a bulwark. We should inscribe that in marble someplace.

Cullen Murphy is an editor at large at Vanity Fair and the author of “God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World.”
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: System Justification   Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:35 am

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Ikuko



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PostSubject: System Justification   Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:40 am

Thank you for this post Josh-thought provoking piece of research.It seems to venn-set or overlap other classics-Zimbardo at Stamford,Milgram.

My latest eye opener is "Stockholm Syndrome"-so called because it relates to hostages during a bank robbery in Stockholm who quickly came to identify with the perpetrators,defending their actions,becoming intimate.I believe the theory that explains their behaviour is survival and adaptation,or adapt-to-survive.

Thanks again for the interesting post.



Ikuko
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