Coercion

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Coercion (pronounced /koʊˈɜrʃən/) is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way. Coercion may involve the actual infliction of physical pain/injury or psychological harm in order to enhance the credibility of a threat. The threat of further harm may lead to the cooperation or obedience of the person being coerced. Torture is one of the most extreme examples of coercion i.e. severe pain is inflicted until the victim provides the desired information.

Contents

Overview

Any person’s set of feasible choices is obtained from the combination of two elements: the initial endowment (the perceived initial state of the world, which the chosen actions are going to affect) and the transformation rules (which state how any chosen action will change the initial endowment, according to the person’s perception).

This follows that coercion could take place by purposely manipulating either the transformation rules or the initial endowment (or both is maximised). Yet, the purpose of coercion is to substitute one’s aims to those of the victim. For this reason, many social philosophers have considered coercion as the polar opposite to freedom.

Various forms of coercion are distinguished: first on the basis of the kind of injury threatened, second according to its aims and scope, and finally according to its effects, from which its legal, social, and ethical implications mostly depend.

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