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The power of the culture industry's ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness. ~ Theodor Adorno

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.

CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F[edit]

  • 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.
  • The only distinction that democracies reward is a high degree of conformity.
    • Ambrose Bierce, Epigrams, The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Volume 8, p. 358.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In order to be able to be an irreproachable member of the herd, one must, above all, be a sheep.
  • Revelation … unavoidably challenges the institution and established power, no matter what form this may take. But the adulteration by political power has changed all this. Christianity has become a religion of conformity.
    • Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity (1982), G. Bromiley, trans. (1986), p. 133.
  • These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. … Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. … The virtue in most request is conformity. … Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist... must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.
  • Most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right.
  • The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.
  • Yield not one inch to all the forces which conspire to make you an echo.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson in conversation, as reported by Charles J. Woodbury, Talks with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1890), p. 30.
  • I would prefer to speak openly and like an oracle to give answers serviceable to all mankind, even though no one should understand me, rather than to conform to popular opinions and so win the praise freely scattered by the mob.
    • Epicurus, “Vatican Sayings,” XXIX.
  • Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.
  • “But,” said Emma, “ one must, after all, follow, to a certain extent, the opinion of the world and conform to its morality.”
    “Ah! but then there are two moralities. The petty, the conventional one, that of men, that which varies unceasingly and bawls so loudly, that one grovels below, close to the earth, like this assembly of idiots which you behold. But the other, the eternal, is all around and above us, like the landscape that encircles us and the blue heaven that gives us light.”
    • Gustave Flaubert, Rodolphe and Mme. Bovary, Madame Bovary (1857), Part 2, Chapter 8.

G - L[edit]

  • I made no attempt to conceal the tedium of these encounters. “They’re all alike,” I told her, “and each repeats the next. Whenever I talk to one, it seems to me I’m talking to several.”
    “But my dear,” Marceline answered, “you can’t ask each one to be different from all the rest.”
    The more they’re like each other, the less they’re like me.” And I continued more wearily: … “They’re alive, they seem to be alive and not to know it.”
    • André Gide, Michael and Marceline in The Immoralist, R. Howard trans., p. 91.
  • 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.
  • The majority principle … has become the sovereign force to which thought must cater. It is a new god, not in the sense in which the heralds of the great revolutions conceived it, namely, as a power of resistance to existing injustice, but as a power of resistance to anything that does not conform.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • The common individual always conforms to the prevailing opinion and the prevailing fashion; he regards the state in which everything now exists as the only possible one and passively accepts it all. … To the genius it always occurs to ask: Could this too not be false?
  • 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[edit]

  • 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.
  • Though the customs be both good as customs, and suitable to him, yet to conform to custom, merely as custom, does not educate or develop in him any of the qualities which are the distinctive endowment of a human being. The human faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice. He who does anything because it is the custom, makes no choice. He gains no practice either in discerning or in desiring what is best. The mental and moral, like the muscular powers, are improved only by being used. The faculties are called into no exercise by doing a thing merely because others do it, no more than by believing a thing only because others believe it.
    • J.S. Mill, On Liberty (Henry Holt, New York: 1895), Chapter 3, p. 105.
  • I do not mean that they choose what is customary, in preference to what suits their own inclination. It does not occur to them to have any inclination, except for what is customary. Thus the mind itself is bowed to the yoke: even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of. … Peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, are shunned equally with crimes: until by dint of not following their own nature, they have no nature to follow: their human capacities are withered and starved: they become incapable of any strong wishes or native pleasures, and are generally without either opinions or feelings of home growth, or properly their own.
    • J.S. Mill, On Liberty (Henry Holt, New York: 1895), Chapter 3, pp. 109-110.
  • A man cannot get a coat or a pair of boots to fit him, unless they are either made to his measure, or he has a whole warehouseful to choose from: and is it easier to fit him with a life than with a coat?
    • J.S. Mill, On Liberty (Henry Holt, New York: 1895), Chapter 3, p. 121.
  • Tendencies of the time cause the public to be more disposed than at most former periods to prescribe general rules of conduct, and endeavor to make every one conform to the approved standard. And that standard, express or tacit, is to desire nothing strongly. Its ideal of character is to be without any marked character; to maim by compression, like a Chinese lady’s foot, every part of human nature which stands out prominently, and tends to make the person markedly dissimilar in outline to commonplace humanity.
    • J.S. Mill, On Liberty (Henry Holt, New York: 1895), Chapter 3, pp. 124-125.
  • As the various social eminences which enabled persons entrenched on them to disregard the opinion of the multitude, gradually become levelled; as the very idea of resisting the will of the public, when it is positively known that they have a will, disappears more and more from the minds of practical politicians; there ceases to be any social support for non-conformity—any substantive power in society, which, itself opposed to the ascendancy of numbers, is interested in taking under its protection opinions and tendencies at variance with those of the public.
    • J.S. Mill, On Liberty (Henry Holt, New York: 1895), Chapter 3, pp. 130-132.
  • In his heart every man knows quite well that, being unique, he will be in the world only once and that no imaginable chance will for a second time gather together into a unity so strangely variegated an assortment as he is: he knows it but he hides it like a bad conscience—why? From fear of his neighbor, who demands conventionality and cloaks himself with it. But what is it that constrains the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself? Modesty, perhaps, in a few rare cases. With the great majority it is indolence, inertia. ... Men are even lazier than they are timid, and fear most of all the inconveniences with which unconditional honesty and nakedness would burden them. Artists alone hate this sluggish promenading in borrowed fashions and appropriated opinions and they reveal everyone’s secret bad conscience, the law that every man is a unique miracle.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations (1876), “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.1, R. Hollingdale, trans. (1983), p. 127
  • Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  • I would be better for me … that multitudes of men should disagree with me rather than that I, being one, should be out of harmony with myself.
  • 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.
  • Path: where nothing grows.
  • The position which I had taken up aroused curiosity; people were anxious to make the acquaintance of the singular man, who sought no one’s society, and whose only anxiety was to live free and happy after his own fashion. Thrown, in spite of myself, into the great world, without possessing its manners, and unable to acquire or conform to them, I took it into my head to adopt manners of my own, which might enable me to dispense with them.
    • Rousseau, Confessions (Wordsworth: 1996), p. 357.
  • 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.

S - Z[edit]

  • There is nothing that brings greater trouble on us than the fact that we conform to rumor, thinking that what has won widespread approval is best, and that, as we have so many to follow as good, we live by the principle, not of reason, but of imitation.
  • Inwardly everything should be different but our outward face should conform to the crowd.
  • [It would seem that] you must inevitably either hate or imitate the world. But the right thing is to shun both courses: you should neither become like the bad because they are many, nor be an enemy of the many because they are unlike you.
  • Scorn the pleasure that comes from the majority’s approval. The many speak highly of you, but have you really any grounds for satisfaction with yourself if you are the kind of person the many understand?
  • 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.
  • The moral empire of the majority is founded in part of the idea that there is more enlightenment and wisdom in many men united than in one alone, in the number of legislators than in their choice. It is the theory of equality applied to intellects.
  • The public, therefore, among a democratic people, has a singular power, which aristocratic nations cannot conceive; for it does not persuade others to its beliefs, but it imposes them and makes them permeate the thinking of everyone by a sort of enormous pressure of the mind of all upon the individual intelligence.
  • The fact that the political laws of the Americans are such that the majority rules the community with sovereign sway materially increases the power which that majority naturally exercises over the mind. For nothing is more customary in man than to recognize superior wisdom in the person of his oppressor.
  • 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).
  • While to the claims of charity a man may yield and yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free.

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