Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms. Norms are implicit, unsaid rules shared by a group of individuals, that guide their interactions with others and among society or social group. This tendency to conform occurs in small groups and/or society as a whole, and may result from subtle unconscious influences, or direct and overt social pressure.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- The power of the culture industry's ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness.
- Theodor Adorno, “The Culture Industry Reconsidered” (1963), ¶ 14
- Not only psychiatry itself but also the values reflected in its statistical definition of “normalcy” serve to condition men to habitual, unthinking, conformist behavior.
- Benjamin R. Barber, “Forced to be Free: An Illiberal Defense of Liberty,” Superman and Common Men (New York: 1971), pp. 68-69
- There is a socialization which turns curious children into adult automatons in a social environment of repressive uniformity, and there is a socialization which turns selfish, impulsive children into self-aware and deliberate participants in a larger community.
- Benjamin R. Barber, “Forced to be Free: An Illiberal Defense of Liberty,” Superman and Common Men (New York: 1971), p. 72
- Even though no one else discovers the nonconformity or enforces the rules against it, the individual who has committed the impropriety may himself act as the enforcer. He may brand himself as deviant because of what he has done and punish himself in one way or another for his behavior.
- Howard S. Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (1963), p. 31
- Liberation from the heroic only means that they have no resource whatsoever against conformity to the current “role models.” They are constantly thinking of themselves in terms of fixed standards that they did not make. Instead of being overwhelmed by Cyrus, Theseus, Moses or Romulus, they unconsciously act out the roles of the doctors, lawyers, businessmen or TV personalities around them. One can only pity young people without admirations they can respect or avow, who are artificially restrained from the enthusiasm for great virtue.
- Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), pp. 66-67
- Socrates too thought that living according to the opinions of others was an illness. But he did not urge men to look for a source for producing their own unique opinions, or criticize them for being conformists. His measure of health was not sincerity, authenticity or any of the other necessarily vague criteria for distinguishing a healthy self. The truth is the one thing most needful; and conforming to nature is quite different from conforming to law, convention or opinion.
- Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), p. 179
- Tocqueville found that Americans talked very much about individual right but that there was a real monotony of thought and that vigorous independence of mind was rare. Even those who appear to be free-thinkers … are creatures of public opinion as much as are conformists—actors of nonconformism in the theater of the conformists who admire and applaud nonconformity of certain kinds, the kinds that radicalize the already dominant opinions.
- Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), p. 247
- Let's all be different same as me.
- John Brunner, The Shockwave Rider (1975), Bk. 2
- The person who is in an infantile level is the person who is apolitical and conformist ... the person who replaces the private father with the social anonymous father.
- Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society, K. Blamey, trans. (1998)
- When modern men and women insist that they feel completely free in their work, they are in a sense telling the truth, for the triumph of conformity lies in the crushing of all resistance, all experience of conflict.
- David Edwards, Burning All Illusions (Boston: 1996), p. 36
- In order to be able to be an irreproachable member of the herd, one must, above all, be a sheep.
- Albert Einstein, “Aphorisms for Leo Baeck” (1953) #6
G - L
- It is the average man of today who shows the most striking differences from people of other ages and civilizations. The rebel of today is twin brother of rebels in all ages and climes.
- Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (New York: 1954), #175
- Fear … explains not only conformity to the behavior of others … but also the adoption of the valuations of others. First, people behave as if these valuations were their own, too, because they are afraid not to conform; then they get used to this pretense and “it becomes second nature.” … As children, we do not conform because the judgment of our elders is likely to be more rational than ours, but—according to Nietzsche—merely from impotence and fear.
- Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche, p. 190, paraphrasing Daybreak § 104
- Nietzsche [in The Gay Science § 143] denounced monotheism for preaching the existence of one Normalgott as a single norm which suggests somehow that there is also a Normalmensch: a norm to which all men must conform and a bar to the development of individuality. It was the advantage of polytheism, Nietzsche contends, that it allowed for a “multiplicity of norms.” (Gay Science § 143)
- Walter Kauffman, Nietzsche, p. 308
- Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.
- Aldo Leopold "A Man's Leisure Time," 1920; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 8
M - R
- The whole drift of our law is toward the absolute prohibition of all ideas that diverge in the slightest from the accepted platitudes, and behind that drift of law there is a far more potent force of growing custom, and under that custom there is a national philosophy which erects conformity into the noblest of virtues and the free functioning of personality into a capital crime against society.
- H. L. Mencken, cited in A Little Book of Aphorisms (New York: 1947), p. 75
- These are the sensations and feelings that are gradually blunted by education, staled by custom, rejected in favor of social conformity.
- Herbert Read, referring to the curiosity and sense of wonder of the child, The Cult of Sincerity (1969), p. 17
- We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think — in fact they do so.
- Bertrand Russell, The ABC of Relativity (1925), p. 166
S - Z
- Men must always have distinguished (e.g. in judicial matters) between hearsay and seeing with one’s own eyes and have preferred what one has seen to what he has merely heard from others. But the use of this distinction was originally limited to particular or subordinate matters. As regards the most weighty matters—the first things and the right way—the only source of knowledge was hearsay.
- Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (1953), p. 86
- To make more products for people who wanted to express themselves would mean creating variety. But the systems of mass production that had been developed in America were only profitable if they made large numbers of the same objects. This had fitted perfectly with the limited range of desires of a conformist society. The expressive self threatened this whole system of manufacturing.
- The Century of the Self, episode 3
- For the amoral herd that fears boredom above all else, everything becomes entertainment. Sex and sport, politics and the arts are transformed into entertainment. … Nothing is immune from the demand that boredom be relieved (but without personal involvement, for mass society is a spectator society).
- Merold Westphal, Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society, p. 50