"System Power involves authorization or institutionalized permission to behave in prescribed ways or to forbid and punish actions that are contrary to them. It provides the 'higher authority' that gives validation to playing new roles, following new rules, and taking actions that would ordinarily be constrained by preexisting laws, norms, morals, and ethics. Such validation usually comes cloaked in the mantle of ideology. Ideology is a slogan or proposition that usually legitimizes whatever means are necessary to attain an ultimate goal. Ideology is the 'Big Kahuna,' which is not challenged or even questioned because it is so apparently 'right' for the majority in a particular time and place. Those in authority present the program as good and virtuous, as a highly valuable moral imperative.
The programs, policies, and standards operating procedures that are developed to support an ideology become an essential component of the System. The System's procedures are considered reasonable and appropriate as the ideology comes to be accepted as sacred. […]
I believe that a system consists of those agents and agencies whose power and values create or modify the rules of and expectation for ’approved behaviors’ within its sphere of influence. In one sense, the system is more than the sum of its parts and of its leaders, who also fall under its power of influences. In another sense, however, the individuals who play key roles in creating a system that engages in illegal, immoral, and unethical conduct should be held accountable despite the situational pressures on them.”
- Zimbardo, Philip, 2007: The Lucifer Effect; Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. S 226, 438.