Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Do Psychopaths Run the World?

Published on January 23, 2017 by   ·   3 Comments

Nick Parkins, New Dawn/Waking Times

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” ~John Lennon (1940-1980), English singer and songwriter

Lennon and others externalise the apparent paranoia that wells up inside us. “The world has gone mad!” More often than not we partition this voice off, content to view the world as others prescribe it. But who are these others, and what do they want?

The term psychopath is often criminally misjudged, thanks largely to unhelpful portrayals of sick, twisted and violent psycho-character types in the popular media. This has led, by way of public ignorance, to the common belief that the psychopath has no function, role or place in open society. A swift offload that allows us, the apparent sane majority, to circumvent our worst fears.

Any notion that the psychopath is incapable of functioning in open society is, according to M.E. Thomas1 – a self-confessed sociopath – flawed. The question is not the capacity to function, but rather what capacity or form that function takes. As Thomas says, psychopaths and sociopaths share an intertwined clinical history; both can function, they just do so differently. And though we are left to muse on what mask that function may take, in many social situations they excel.

Competition Wins Out

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck was a French biologist who advocated a theory of evolution widely rebuked in establishment circles. Lamarck’s major work was published in the same year Charles Darwin was born – who would go on to supplant Lamarck’s theory 50 years later. In Lamarck’s world cooperation prevailed over Darwinian competition as the driving mechanism of evolution.

According to authors G. Greenberg and M.M. Haraway,2 it was Darwin’s view that served to reflect and sustain a Victorian society tied to free market, capitalist and imperial values. His model supported a dog-eat-dog, life is hard, code of practice; the scientific valediction of the natural world as played out on a brutal, cold and insensitive landscape. Arguably the perfect environment for the aspiring modern day psychopath, and a prevailing view that the poet Tennyson described as nature, red in tooth and claw.

Snakes & Ladders

Although diagnosing definitive psychopathy in individuals remains somewhat of a grey area, attempts have been made to categorise psychological traits that set psychopathic personalities apart. Most prominent is the diagnostic check-list devised by renowned Canadian psychologist Robert Hare that is used to determine a categorical diagnosis of clinical psychopathy, or at best a category score.

According to Hare’s list, psychopaths display superficial charm, unbridled ego, and pathological lying and cold, calculated cunning to entrance their prey. They are often impulsive and irresponsible, and exhibit an absence of empathy and remorseless lack of guilt. These and other attributes, such as criminal versatility and a marked capacity to manipulate, deceive and control, mark them out as dangerous. These are traits that enable psychopaths to move into high-ranking positions of power and influence.

“We know much less about corporate psychopathy and its implications,” explains New York psychologist Paul Babiak, “in large part because of the difficulty in obtaining the active cooperation of business organisations for our research.”3 A dilemma that Hare disclosed to Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test. “Prisoners are easy,” states Hare. “They like meeting researchers. It breaks up the monotony of their day. But CEOs, politicians…”4 According to Hare, these sharks are a different kettle of fish.

A rare study on psychopathy in the workplace conducted by Babiak, Neumann and Hare5 suggests that 1 in 25, or 4 per cent, of corporate executives display significant personality traits typical of psychopathy – an incidence four times that estimated in the general population. The study supports the claim that psychopaths can and in fact do achieve high ranking corporate status. We are left to speculate, but Hare concedes Wall Street may harbour 1 in 10 attracted to lucrative watering holes that are poorly regulated.6Factor this in and it’s not hard to see how the very lifeblood and identity of corporations and financial institutions can often run cold.

Arguably most startling, the study indicates that despite being classed as substandard managers, team players and attracting poor performance appraisals, executives that met the clinical threshold of psychopath were valued by their immediate superiors as creative and innovative, as good communicators and strategic thinkers.

In short, they may not always fly under the radar. Despite the blips, it is clear to American psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley7 that psychopaths possess the communication, persuasion and interpersonal skills to override any negative impacts on their career. A finding supported by the Babiak study: “some companies viewed psychopathic executives as having leadership potential, despite negative performance reviews and low ratings on leadership and management by subordinates.”8According to the authors, this shows a proficiency to manipulate decision makers, a point made by psychologist Dennis Doren who observed in institutions the psychopath’s unerring ability to seek out and foster relationships with those of highest authority and demonstrate tremendous skill at influencing them.9

In many instances the chameleon-like ability of the psychopath to mimic its surroundings by reading and influencing colleagues through the art of deception, be it through self promotion or subtle persuasion, allows the snake charmer to hide his true skin and pass unchecked through social customs. Studies suggest psychopathy, in body or by proxy, can entrench itself at the top, but is this phenomenon relatively isolated, or has this scenario over the course of human history always prevailed?

As Above, So Below

As vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, Darrell West analyses business and law school curricula, specifically, according to West “because business and law schools train the leaders of tomorrow.”10 In the course of his research West reviews course syllabi and conducts interviews with faculty members. He has also surveyed data on business and law school student perceptions. What he found was troubling.

“The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits,” states West, taking his lead from the title of a 1970 New York Times magazine article written by the highly-influential American economist and statistician, Milton Friedman. The article was unequivocal: according to Friedman, maximising shareholder value was a company’s sole responsibility.11

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Readers Comments (3)

  1. Richard King Richard King says:

    ABSOFUKLUTELY!!! And orange 1 at this time, plus others.

  2. Justin Flex Justin Flex says:

    The same people who run the world now are from the same bloodlines that have ruled since ancient Egypt and even before that. Just study Rome and how fucked up the Ceasars were.

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