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“Social constraint—and by this we mean any social relation into which there enters an element of authority and which is not, like cooperation, the result of an interchange between equal individuals—has on the individual results that are analogous to those exercised by adult constraint on the mind of the child. The two phenomena, moreover, are really one and the same thing, and the adult who is under the dominion of unilateral respect for the ‘Elders’ and for tradition is really behaving like a child. It may even be maintained that the realism of primitive conceptions of crime and punishment is, in certain respects, an infantile reaction. To primitive man, the moral and the physical universe are one and the same thing, and a rule is both a law of nature and a principle of conduct. For this reason, crime threatens the very existence of the universe and must be mystically set at naught by a suitable expiation. But this idea of a law that is both physical and moral is the very core of the child’s conception of the world; for under the effect of adult constraint the child cannot conceive the laws of the physical universe except in the guise of a certain obedience rendered by things to rules. As to ideas of punishment and expiation, how could they have become so widespread in the adult community if men had not all first been children, and if the child had not been from the very beginning of his mental development respectful towards the decisions of the adult who reprimands him and punishes him? Under the effects of social differentiation and cooperation, on the contrary, the individual is less and less dominated by the cult of the past and by the forced conformity which accompanies it. He then becomes really adult, and the infantile traits that mark the conformist spirit make place for the features that are the outcome of cooperation. Thus autonomy of conscience takes the place of heteronomy.” – Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child (trans. Marjorie Gabain)

Published inJean PiagetOpen Science CollaborationPolitics & Law

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