Social Question

Mantralantis's avatar

Why do some people with authority and power seemingly feel they have to abuse their positions?

Asked by Mantralantis (1494 points ) October 13th, 2011

Many people that have authority over others can abuse their purpose.

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13 Answers

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

Because it gives them the satisfaction of being in control and having absolute power over you. Broouhhhhaaahahaa!!

augustlan's avatar

“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Obviously, this isn’t always so, but the phrase didn’t come from nowhere.

YARNLADY's avatar

Many times they don’t think or know they are doing so.

ucme's avatar

I like to call those folks tin pot little Hitlers, because that’s an accurate descriptive.

Soupy's avatar

Ever hear of the Stanford Prison experiment? Give a regular person power over others and they become sadists.

University students were split into groups for a mock prison exercise. Prisoners and guards. The guards were given power over the prisoners. The experiment had to be concluded after 6 days, as the guards began to abuse the prisoners, refusing to allow them to urinate or defecate, forcing them to use numbers instead of names for themselves, making them sleep on concrete, making them go naked, and beating them. When told the news that the experiment would conclude early, the people given guard roles expressed disappointment. Repeats of the experiment have shown similar patterns of behaviour.

The guards and the prisoners were regular students, not criminals, nor did they have histories of violence. However, when some of the men were given power over the others, it only took days for them to start abusing those under their control – and enjoying it.

As the old saying goes: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Hibernate's avatar

Power corrupts. Because if the f’ up it doesn’t fall on them .. they will just blame others.

marinelife's avatar

Because they think that they can.

thorninmud's avatar

People who end up in positions of power tend, with few exceptions, to have large egos. With this comes a sense of special privilege. As a maker and enforcer of rules, it’s easy to see one’s self as not being subject to them. Someone holding the stick is less likely to fear the stick.

Add to this the fact that power is only an abstraction until it’s exercised. You know you have power when you make people do what they would not otherwise want to do—pay a bribe, perform a sex act, contribute to your campaign, hire your nephew. Orwell makes this point well in “1984”:

“How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?”

Winston thought. “By making him suffer,” he said.

“Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation.”

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @YARNLADY and @augustlan.

Sometimes the person in power doesn’t realize how the underlings are being affected. They are not purposefully trying to hurt anyone.

Then there are people, like the expirement @Soupy spoke of, who like feeling control over others, even humiliating others. I believe the people most prone to this are those who were insecure or felt stepped on in their own lives. The more fairly we treat each other, the more fairly people will be treated. The prison expirement is a little bit of a set up, because prisoners are alreafy thought to have less morals, or bad judgement, etc. In a typical corporate setting that prejudgement would have less application as well as other life sutuations.

There are different types of power. Our politicans have power, but I don’t think their goal is to abuse other people, but I do think many of them want to maintain their position because they feel like they get respect, have authority, and of course it is their job also.

wonderingwhy's avatar

The usual goal of those in power is to stay in power and when it comes to that abuse quickly becomes a starkly divided matter of perspective.

Scooby's avatar

Because it’s a “Dog Eat Dog” kind of world out there, nothing changes…. :-/
Now, for all you kids of a certain age out there, here’s a blast from the past. enjoy ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

Well, usually it’s part of the game. The person on their hands and knees wants to be spanked. There are other positions, too, but I’m not so familiar with this game. I guess you could call the submissive person a “position,” if you want. Generally they want to be abused. I guess it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But I say if they are consenting adults, it’s none of my business what they do in the privacy of their bedroom.

Bellatrix's avatar

They feel inadequate in other areas of their life. Having the power their job brings makes them feel valuable and important. Of course those of us on the receiving end of their power games, may see them as anything but valuable and important. I do think @ucme described them perfectly with ‘tin pot little hitlers’. I have in my mind some parking wardens and council inspectors. I have come across so many people in these types of roles who use their power for evil rather than good.

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