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1. systematic training in obedience to regulations and authority
2. a branch of learning or instruction
3. the laws governing members of a Church



a definite orderly manner of human behavior that corresponds to the standards of law and morality that have become established in society.

Discipline is an indispensable condition for the normal existence of society and organizations. Thanks to it, behavior becomes orderly, thus ensuring group activity and the functioning of social organization. In a society there is always discipline that is compulsory for everyone and special discipline, which is obligatory only for the members of a particular organization (for example, labor, party, or military discipline). Discipline is always determined by the prevailing social relations, which it supports.

Several types of discipline are distinguished: internal discipline or self-discipline, discipline arising out of considerations of advantage, and discipline based on compulsion. Internal discipline presupposes a deep assimilation (internalization) by the members of the society of the norms regulating people’s behavior. This kind of discipline is maintained without external sanctions or measures of compulsion. “Given ideal class-consciousness and discipline on the part of those participating in the common work, this subordination would be something like mild leadership of an orchestra conductor” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36, p. 200). The disciplined individual feels an inner need to follow the accepted norms of behavior, and if he fails to observe them, he experiences remorse and feelings of guilt.

Unlike internal discipline, discipline based on considerations of advantage and discipline based on compulsion rely on external sanctions, which may be positive or negative. A member of society or of an organization may obey rules and instructions only because he counts on material gain or other encouragement or because he hopes to avoid punishment. In the final analysis, discipline is determined by the level of combination of the personal interests of members of society, their needs, and the socially conditioned norms of behavior that they fulfill. If these norms do not become the internal mainsprings of action for individuals, various kinds of deviations in behavior arise, which are regulated through mechanisms of social control or which may lead to changes and to the breakdown of the existing norms and institutions. However, excessively rigid discipline may also prove socially harmful, since it deprives the members of society of creative initiative, and the social system loses essential flexibility.

None of the forms of discipline is encountered in isolation in the various social systems; rather, each form has its own importance in a given system. In societies based primarily on traditions, moral-religious regulation of human behavior prevails during stable periods, supplemented by compulsory discipline (personal dependence). The role of material interests and discipline stemming from considerations of gain predominates in bourgeois society, with its “naked cash” relationships and the supremacy of individualistic ethics. At the same time, normative discipline also operates as a regulative mechanism in the form of business ethics and professional duty.

The conscious discipline of the working people is gradually consolidated in socialist society. Lenin characterized socialist discipline as “a discipline of comradeship, a discipline of the utmost mutual respect, a discipline of independence and initiative in the struggle” (ibid., p. 500). Socialist discipline develops in the process of the conscious construction of new social relationships, as a result of the process of communist upbringing. An important means of strengthening socialist discipline is social control and material and moral stimulation.

At the contemporary stage of the construction of a socialist and communist society the organization of society, which has become increasingly complex, and the scientific and technological revolution present increased demands for the discipline, organization, responsibility, and consciousness of every member of society. The norms of discipline in the period of building a communist society have been formulated in the Program of the CPSU in the moral code for the builder of communism.


Engels, F. “Ob avtoritete.” K. Marx and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 18.
Lenin, V. I. “Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33.
Lenin, V. I. “Ocherednye zadachi Sovetskoi vlasti.” Ibid. vol. 36.
Lenin, V. I. “Kak organizovat’ sorevnovanie?” Ibid., vol. 35.
Lenin, V. I. “Velikii pochin.” Ibid., vol. 39.
Programma KPSS. Moscow, 1961.
Makarenko, A. S. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 5. Moscow, 1958. Pages 36-43, 130-44.



indicates martinetish authority. [Military Slang: Wentworth, 98]
Patton, General George
(1885–1945) U.S. Army general known for imposing rigid discipline on his troops. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2083]
strictly religious and morally disciplined colonists. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 551]
spare the rod and spoil the child
axiomatic admonition. [O.T.: Proverbs 13:24]
Doric people noted for bravery, frugality, and stern self-discipline. [Gk. Hist.: Payton, 640]
West Point
U.S. Military Academy focusing on discipline as part of training. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 729]
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