That's a very broad topic, but I would have to say nonconformity is to societies as evolution is to species--it is the nonconformists who agitate society's norms and eventually instigate change, in both positive and negative senses, and often at great personal cost. I would say they are absolutely essential, and way more fun to study!
I think in the recent whistleblowing fiascos we have seen the importance of non-conformity has been highlighted - for the good of society people need to be able to be free enough to act against the rest of society or a particular organisation for the wider good. If society becomes so restrictive that individuals are unable to not conform, then that society is not able to grow, develop or change according to its needs and will suffer.
Nonconformity should play a role whenever one big group or organization tries to use their power to influence society and try to take advantage of the population for their own benefit. When this happens, there must be a nonconformist movement that can stop the big boss companies from taking over society and the smaller groups, because this is how monopolies and bad businesses begin. Therefore, the role of the nonconformist should be that of a person who questions authority for the sake of protecting the rights of everyone alike. It is also the work of people who understand that not everything that is established is necessarily good for everyone equally, and there must always be a balance of power.
Nonconformity is a necessary thing, but it is also dangerous.
For example, let us think of nonconformity as advocated by people like Thoreau. These people argue that people are obligated to act as they think is right, not as society says that they should. They are to be guided by their own consciences.
This is good in a way. If more people in Nazi Germany, for example, had behaved in this way, the Holocaust might not have happened.
However, it is also a recipe for chaos. If people simply follow their own consciences, you run the risk of having a society where no one follows any sort of rules. This would be disastrous.
Conformity is that aspect of culture that holds society together. However society would never change without a few nonconformists. We are all a part of the whole.
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It greatly depends on the circumstances of the nonconformity. If you are talking about the military, that might be one of the last traits you want a soldier to have, but if you want it at the highest levels of the military, then it might be a good trait to have. In other areas, it all depends on the circumstances.