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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Insubordination is the act of a subordinate deliberately disobeying a lawful order. Refusing to perform an action which is unethical or illegal is not insubordination; neither is refusing to perform an action which is not within the scope of authority of the person issuing the order.

Insubordination is typically a punishable offense in hierarchical organizations which depend on people lower in the chain of command doing as they are told.



Insubordination is refusal by a subordinate to obey lawful orders given by a commissioned officer or non commissioned officer (NCO). Refusal of a military officer to obey his (civilian) superiors would also count, although in some nations, the head of the government is (at least technically) also the most superior officer of the military (see for example Commander in Chief). Generally, an officer or soldier is expected to be insubordinate to the point of mutiny if given an unlawful order, however. (see Nuremberg defense)


Other types of hierarchical structures, especially corporations, may also use insubordination as a reason for dismissal or censure of an employee.

There have been a number of court cases in the United States which have involved charges of insubordination from the employer with counter charges of infringement of First Amendment rights from the employee. A number of these cases have reached the U.S. Supreme Court usually involving a conflict between an institution of higher education and a faculty member.

In the modern workplace in the Western world, hierarchical power relationships are usually sufficiently internalized so that the issue of formal charges of insubordination are rare. In his book, Disciplined Minds, American physicist and writer Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interests – or skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control.Template:Citation needed


There have been a number of famous and notorious people who have committed insubordination or publicly objected to an organizational practice.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Insubordination" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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