DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2021, from

1. Coercion and compulsion

Coercion is a technique for forcing people to act as the coercer wants them to act, and presumably contrary to their own preferences. It usually employs a threat of some dire consequence if the actor does not do what the coercer demands, although it is controversial whether a non-threatening offer might in some contexts be coercive (see §2). There is a contrast between coercion, in which the victim can choose one or the other of the two alternatives allowed by the coercer (for example, ‘your money or your life’), and what we might call compulsion, in which the victim has no choice at all, as for example when the victim is knocked unconscious and dragged away. In compulsion, options are closed by physical force, making alternatives to what the coercer demands physically impossible. In contrast, coercion does not destroy the preferred alternative as much as destroy its appeal by increasing its cost. The cost is the alternative specified in the coercer’s threat.

Citing this article:
Feinberg, Joel. Coercion and compulsion. Coercion, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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