top of page

The Philosophy of Coercion -- How It Corrupts Society Through Normalization -- Its Ironic Origin

Updated: 6 days ago

Tomasio Rubinshtein on a balcony.

Ms. Tamara Moskal's Synopsis

Coercion is an impulsive way to coerce someone into cooperating against their will. Successful long-term collaboration relies on loyalty and trust. Leadership based on fear prevents an exchange of ideas, breaks human cooperation, and results in less performance. Yet, coercion is frequent in all types of social interactions.
Frequently, people learn to apply coercion from their role models. Teachers, our first authoritative figures, must teach the children the importance of proper character besides knowledge. Altogether, we should stop using fear tactics, become braver, and teach others to be braver. 


The Cambridge Dictionary defines coercion as:

The use of force to persuade someone to do something that they are unwilling to do.

Coercion is, of course, but one of the many ways humans utilize to influence the world around them. It might as well be the most impulsive way to affect the world, compared to rhetoric, which requires more planning, more prudence, and more delicacy. For the human mind, which naturally seeks shortcuts in its thinking to save energy, simply threatening someone to comply with you is, by technicality alone, the easiest way you can get them to cooperate at the time.

However by threatening others to do as you want, you may win the battle, but not the war. In other words, you may successfully attain your short-term goals, but not your long-term goals. Think of it from the point of view of the threatened. They may comply, but can you really say they would be loyal to someone who uses coercion? Would they feel psychologically safe, being with such a person?

Safety is one of our most basic needs, scoring above our physical needs, according to Abraham Maslow. When you threaten someone, you're not only threatening whatever you can take away from him, but also their ability to feel safe with you. The essence of loyalty is also built on safety, because safety allows us to trust the other person. And when we are loyal to them, we won't betray them so easily than otherwise.

How Coercion/Fearmongering Ruin Organizational Cooperation

Successful cooperations between humans rely on long-term trust and loyalty. Leaders whom we have faith in will not be deserted so easily. According to Forbes, there are several ways to restore faith in your leadership:

On the other hand, the ThoughtfulLeader blog presents what unintentionally happens when you choose to lead by fear, compared to vision, trust, etc.:

  • Stop (or decrease the efficency of) teamwork.

  • Make people rally up against you collectively out of fear.

  • Lead divisions to not properly cooperate with one another (Factionalism).

  • Eliminate the production and exchange of insights, opinions, advice, etc.

  • Make the followers question what they're truly capable of.

To allow better cooperation between individuals and teams within organizations of any kind, it is imperative that the main driving force would be something different than fear. If you can't build a collective out of the cause you favor, at the very least you can build it of the mercenary's mindset.

Fear, by nature, is something that keeps people away from each other, compared to love, which brings them closer. By creating this artifical distance around you, you prevent not only a helpful exchange of ideas but also a better output of your overall collaboration.

We need to understand that humans originally became social creatures out of the necessity of cooperation for our survival, both individal and collective. And of course, a fundemental human need is safety, as survival is far more difficult when we feel unsafe, whether or not we actually are. When the organization you're part of actively seeks to threaten your fundemental needs as an individual, you lose trust in it, and question it more than you should.

Fostering more-harmonious co-existence with the people around us shall help us worry less, feel safer, and actually focus more on delivering the task at hand more effectively.

The Greater-Macro Level of Influence

Society can be seen as a loose coalition of various types of organizations, ranging from families, clans, companies and other factions. All of these groups interact with one another or influence one another in some way. When more-influencial groups become more prestigous and accepted by the other groups, the latter groups begin to follow the example of the first type of groups.

Due to the authority fallacy, it is easier to surrender our admiration to people or groups who have more authority than us. When we also give in to the prestige bias, we also begin to want to become like them. These two concepts can compromise our moral reasoning in favor of becoming normal, and thus, accepted by the larger coalition that is society.

It is when our role models, our leaders and our bosses begin to lead through coercion and not through shared ambition, we may follow their example even though we may despise them. Another reason for that, being our behavior, as a product of other behaviors. When we behave in accordance to the behaviors we learn from, that is known as learned behavior. And the thing is, our learned behavior is done both consciously and unconsciously.

The education system of a society is an important tool to make people behave in certain ways. The problem begins at the very basis of failing to give the younger generations, the moral education they deserve for a better-functioning society. Teachers may, more often than not, teach based on the carrot-and-stick method. The problem with this method arrives when teachers bother less to make students aspire for rewards, like grades, and focus more on coercion through the following methods:

  • Yelling.

  • Individual punishiment.

  • Collective punishment.

  • Other forms of intimidation.

Being knowledge-based institutions, many schools hinder their own success by unintentionally making students rebel against them. They focus less on teaching them the importance of learning (AKA, the philosophy of education), and more on making them aware of the consenquences of non-compliance.

Teachers are one of the first figures of authority any person in a public education nation will face. With or without any of the parties' awareness, teachers not only present the study material, but also how a "proper" person acts. As such, teaching is more than the display of knowledge but also the display of proper character.

When we fail to make our teachers teach us the importance of character, of proper behavior themselves, they become bad examples that the students learn from, unconsciously at least.

And since teachers normalize the problematic tactics of fearmongering, they fail their own education's directive. They breed the next generations of leaders themselves. The next role models, bosses and politicians.

The very same politicians that many of us despise, are also a product of their environment as much as any of us are. They can come from the same socio-economic backgrounds, the same education institutions, and consume the same cultural pieces many of us grew up on as children.

We may condemn our various degrees of leadership which form our organizations, but we need to remember that it is us who enable the very same behaviors we condemn.

Crime and Corrupt Politics -- The Connecting Element

Crime and corrupt politics have one connecting element for sure: They dominate through terror. A controversial example can be found in the history of the United States. According to the NewAmerica blog:

...It's been possible for decades in U.S. politics to cobble together pluralities of voters by offering them new bogeymen. Before ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and China, election seasons sensationalized crime, Japanese imports, and communists. Indeed, political scientists Steven Teles and David Dagan argue that terrorism was largely swapped in for crime in the public imagination—and in political campaigns—after 9/11.
The United States’ history of prejudice, combined with its diversity and the demonstrated electoral success of fear-driven approaches, has led again and again to campaigns that demonize and target not just pandemics and ideologies, but people and communities.
Such rhetoric has been responsible for spikes of violence against minority groups in the past. Now, with anti-Semitic, anti-Asian, and anti-immigrant hate crimes on the rise, how we direct our fear has major implications for our social fabric.

Fear. The paralyzing feeling of imminent danger. A dreaded nightmare about to come true. But when you're a mob boss looking to consolidate your power, you look at human emotions differently. Mob bosses rule by fear. It's the best weapon.


Must I eleborate further? We may complain and even actively eliminate the problems which make us fearful. However, as long as we apply the same fear-tactics in our own behavior, we would only enable the very same problems we condemn!

We mustn't cooperate with behaviors we don't agree with! Or else we would allow others act the same, by learning from us!

And to avoid threatening others, we first mustn't be afraid ourselves. We must learn and teach others to become braver.

For in the end, all coercion stems from fear itself. Coercion... is a self defense mechanism. The best defense is a good offense.

I want to be braver. I will be braver.

I could become a better example. So can you.

Additional Read

61 views0 comments


Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

צילום מסך 2023-11-02 202752.png
bottom of page