Milieu control

term to describe tactics that control environment and human communication through the use of social pressure and group language

Milieu control is a term popularized by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton to describe tactics that control environment and human communication through the use of social pressure and group language; such tactics may include dogma, protocols, innuendo, slang, and pronunciation, which enables group members to identify other members, or to promote cognitive changes in individuals.


  • Although milieu control is more obvious in the situation of a prisoner whose environment is forced on him, spiritual purgation often begins with a similar structuring of a person's physical environment.
    • Kevin Fauteux (1994). The Recovery of Self: Regression and Redemption in Religious Experience. Paulist Press. p. 26. ISBN 0809134233. 

  • This kind of 'milieu control' can be brought about through coercion, Lifton believed, but at its most successful it convinces the subject that he or she is acting spontaneously rather than being directed by values that are alien to the self.
    • Martin Halliwell (2013). Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945-1970. Rutgers University Press. p. 102. ISBN 0813560667. 

  • 'Milieu Control' involves the control of daily schedule including food intake, sleep, information and time and space for critical reflection.
    • John Paul Healy (2010). Yearning to Belong. Ashgate Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 140941941X. 

  • In applying Erikson's totalism concept to the Thought Reform experiences of his subjects, Lifton famously identified eight 'themes' of the totalistic milieu: Milieu Control, i.e., monopoly of the spatial and informational environment.
    • Jeffrey Kaplan (2013). Millennial Violence: Past, Present and Future. Routledge. p. 213. ISBN 1135316260. 

  • The totalist administrators 'look upon milieu control as a just and necessary policy, one which need not be kept secret.' The assumption of 'omniscience' and 'ultimate truth' leads these administrators to consider it 'their duty to create an environment containing no more and no less than this 'truth''.
    • Barend Christoffel Labuschagne, Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt (2009). Religion, Politics and Law. Brill. p. 399. ISBN 9004172076. 

  • This may be called milieu control. The Chinese Communist prison is probably the most thoroughly controlled and manipulated group environment that has ever existed.
    • DeVere Edwin Pentony (1962). China, The Emerging Red Giant: Communist Foreign Policies. Chandler Pub. Co.. p. 237. OCLC 1464627. 

  • The milieu control exerted over the broader social environment of Communist China, while considerably less intense, is in its own way unrivalled in its combination of extensiveness and depth; it is, in fact, one of the distinguishing features of Chinese Communist practice.
    • John M. Phelan (1969). Communications Control: Readings in the Motives and Structures of Censorship. Sheed and Ward. p. 20. ISBN 9780836202731. OCLC 44528. 

  • This kind of 'milieu control' can be brought about through coercion, but at its most successful it convinces individuals that they are acting autonomously — as is the case for the ex-POW Sergeant Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate. The result is that milieu control disrupts the 'balance between self and the outside world', resulting in 'a profound threat to [the individual's] personal autonomy'.
    • Adam Piette, Mark Rawlinson (2012). The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-century British and American War Literature. Edinburgh University Press. p. 301. ISBN 0748638741. 

  • A reliable system of indoctrination requires nearly total 'milieu control' in which the indoctrinatee has few or no alternate sources of information and values.
    • Frank Kemp Salter (2006). On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration. Transaction Publishers. p. 199. ISBN 1412805961. 

  • Such accounts are consistent with what Lifton described as 'milieu control', a key aspect of ideological totalism. As Lifton postulated it, this is primarily the use of techniques to dominate the person's contact with the outside world but also their communication with themselves.
    • Dennis Tourish (2013). The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective. Routledge. p. 149. ISBN 1136766758. 

  • The first is that of total milieu control — control of all information exchange and imagery in an environment that seeks to extend itself to internal controls of every kind.
    • Paul Kevin Wapner, Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, Richard A. Falk (2000). Principled World Politics: The Challenge of Normative International Relations. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 233. ISBN 0742500659. 

  • A second way in which milieu control is affects group members is linked to groups' conscious efforts in that regard. That is, the groups maintain milieu control especially by way of labeling recalcitrant members as 'subjective' or 'objective agent.' The former term is used for those who are thought to have harmed the organization by their mistakes or failures in groups' operations.
    • Kamil Yilmaz (2014). Disengaging from Terrorism – Global Lessons from the Turkish Penitents. Routledge. p. 121. ISBN 1317964497. 

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