Stanley Milgram's series of experiments to find out how far individuals would go to obey authority are legendary. Conducted in New Haven, Connecticut in 1961, they have been cited in manuals written by dog trainers (Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier: do not follow dog-experts blindly . . . instincts . . . humanity) and self-help pundits (The Necessary Disobedience by Maria Modig, dedicated to Milgram: empowerment . . . taking responsibility), as well as being the source for a Peter Gabriel song entitled 'We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)'. A French punk rock group called Milgram put out a CD called Vierhundertfünfzig Volt ('450 Volts'). A British band called Midget issued The Milgram Experiment. Plays have been written (Dannie Abse's The Dogs of Pavlov was the first, in 1973); a stand-up comedian, Robbie Chafitz, called his 1999 weekly off-off-Broadway performances The Stanley Milgram Experiment; a French movie with Yves Montand, I . . . comme Icare, made in 1979, came out of it, with Milgram himself pictured on the set; and a textbook used in courses on business ethics cites the obedience experiments to warn students about the evil things their bosses might ask of them and how to resist. I can't say about the dog-training or self-help books, but this last educational effort doesn't seem to have worked.
LRB 18 November 2004 | PDF Download