How important is discipline in society?

Essay by ushnish October 2005

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Among those who work in difficult or dangerous jobs, for example in coal mines, there is often a discipline that comes not from being subject to the will of any person, however rational and well-intentioned, but from the work itself. If it is to be done successfully and with the minimum danger and discomfort to all those engaged in it, certain procedures must be followed and safeguards observed. Since the workers can see that the nature of the work demands this, there is correspondingly less need for discipline to be imposed on them by some other agency. This is an ideal situation, as far as discipline is concerned: where the discipline is inherent in the work or activity, and where rules and procedures are followed because they are perceived as appropriate if the work is to be done. In the same kind of way it does happen, and fortunately not all that rarely, that a society appears collectively to embrace the idea that behaving within the legal confines is in the public's interest, and that if they are to be law-abiding, then various routines, such as remaining content with earning one's own keep and not committing fraud, have to be kept to.

How can "discipline" be defined? Some would reserve the word for the following of rules because the rules are seen appropriate to the task in hand, and would apply the adjective "disciplined" to the abovementioned society but not to another one which has been brought to order by some external force such as the government's threats of punishment. Others take a more holistic view of discipline in which it is perfectly proper to speak of one person or group of persons being "disciplined" by another's imposition of authority. It would be pointless to stipulate that the word should...