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Defiance: Why Are Some People More Defiant than Others?

When is defiance a bold resistance to authority, and when is it a sign of disregard or contempt for others? With Lewis Maltby, Olivier Py and Luna Muñoz Centifanti.

Acts of defiance small or large have proved to be incredibly powerful throughout history, but when does defiance spill into aggression? Bridget Kendall asks the employment lawyer Lewis Maltby, the theatre director Olivier Py and the psychopathologist Dr Luna Muñoz Centifanti.

(Photo: Historic Marker at the bus stop in Alabama, USA, where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Credit: Getty Images)

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41 minutes

Lewis Maltby

Lewis Maltby is president and founder of the National Workrights Institute, an advocacy organisation for the legal protection of human rights in the workplace.  He has been called upon by Congress to testify on many occasions regarding a wide range of employment issues, including dispute resolution. He has also taught at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey. In 2009, Lewis Maltby published Can they do that? Retaking our fundamental rights in the workplace.  Lewis Maltby explains that his major concern at the moment is workplace surveillance, especially as concerns employees' computer activity. 

Olivier Py

Olivier Py is a celebrated French playwright and theatre director, and the director of the Avignon Theatre Festival in the South of France, one of the world’s biggest theatre festivals.  His latest production is Prometheus Bound by the Ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus at the Avignon Festival. Olivier Py explains how he has defied all the traditional conventions of the theatre in staging this play, dispensing with set, lighting and a traditional theatrical venue, so that he can reach out to people who don't normally go to the theatre. Fittingly, Olivier Py says the play itself is also about defiance and the birth of democracy telling the story of the deity Prometheus who stole fire from the gods to give it to mankind. It is a play he says which is very relevant today when most people in France are unwilling to speak of politics.  

Luna Muñoz Centifanti

Dr Luna Muñoz Centifanti is a Puerto Rican developmental psychopathologist, based in the Psychology department of Durham University. She focuses on how defiant behaviour in children can spill into aggression. She says children who are insensitive to punishments and still continue to be defiant may be exhibiting psychopathic traits which could lead to violence in later life. Luna has also carried out award winning research on how defiant children can affect their parents' emotional state.