Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 291–309 | Cite as

Obedience and Evil: From Milgram and Kampuchea to Normal Organizations

  • Miguel Pina e Cunha
  • Arménio Rego
  • Stewart R. Clegg


Obedience: a simple term. Stanley Milgram, the famous experimental social psychologist, shocked the world with theory about it. Another man, Pol Pot, the infamous leader of the Khmer Rouge, showed how far the desire for obedience could go in human societies. Milgram conducted his experiments in the controlled environment of the US psychology laboratory of the 1960s. Pol Pot experimented with Utopia in the totalitarian Kampuchea of the 1970s. In this article, we discuss the process through which the Khmer Rouge regime created an army of unquestioningly obedient soldiers – including child soldiers. Based on these two cases, we advance a framework on how obedience can be grown or countered.


obedience Khmer Rouge children soldiers organized violence Pol Pot 


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We are grateful to the Journal editorial team and to Sandro Mendonça for comments and suggestions. Miguel Cunha gratefully acknowledges support from Nova Forum.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel Pina e Cunha
    • 1
  • Arménio Rego
    • 2
  • Stewart R. Clegg
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculdade de EconomiaUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Departamento de Economia, Gestão e Engenharia IndustrialUniversidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal
  3. 3.Centre for Management and Organization StudiesUniversity of Technology, SydneyBroadwayAustralia

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