One person in every hundred is a psychopath. With a global population approaching 7 billion, this puts the global total of psychos at roughly seventy million.
Seventy million psychopaths! Think of it: roughly twice the population of Canada. That’s a lot of psychos to deal with. And, as we all know from American Psycho, the problem with the upper echelons of business and finance is that fucking loons can so easily rise to the top.
This is, essentially, the claim of an article run earlier this summer on Truthout. In “How Will the 99% Deal With 70 Million Psychopaths?,” Joe Brewer asks that we consider the pernicious effects of a business culture in which avarice and ruthlessness are encouraged and thereby provide a stomping ground for psychopaths to flourish.
But this gloss overlooks much more serious problems posed by the structural composition of capitalism. Indeed, it reiterates a species of argument endemic to the liberal-left: that “unfettered” capitalism is the problem of the modern world. The solution, of course, is that it just needs some fettering—or perhaps mass expulsions of psychopaths.
And here’s where the left-liberal critique of capitalism falls apart.
Capitalism relies on endless competitive accumulation. This process is as relentless as it is remorseless. Human flourishing is not its aim.
Capital accumulated is used to accumulate more capital. Its expansion is exponential; it does not slow down when psychopaths at the helm are censured. Indeed, it is fair to say that, despite the ostensible widespread presence of psychopaths in positions of policy control, there must be many times more non-psychopaths than psychopaths acting as willing functionaries of the oligarchic class.
Brewer claims that there is a preponderance of psychopathic captains of industry and office bearers resulting from their ability to insinuate themselves “into positions of power as stock traders, corporate executives, and corruptible politicians.” I’m no mathematician, but if only one person in every hundred is psychopathic, what happens to the other 99? In spite of the alleged psychopath prevalence, there is surely a shit ton of non-psychopaths in corridors of power.
And if the narrative being flogged here is the frightening prospect of having a bunch of psychos inflicting noxious social and economic policies on the rest of us, isn’t the collusion of countless “sane” accomplices far more chilling?
[…] Think of it in these terms: The commission of any genocide is likely aided and abetted by the cooperation and/or initial mobilization of psychopaths. However, there are no studies that I know of that enumerate the number of psychopaths engaged in any given genocide. I don’t think anyone has bothered to attempt such a feat for the good reason that it wouldn’t really matter.
I don’t believe that a case can be made that psychopathy is ever the motive force for genocide or ethnic cleansing. Indeed, the horror with which we consider such incidents in our history stems from precisely the fact that the number of participants puts the lie to explanations that rely on psychopathology for monocausal elucidation.
A genocide is not simply orchestrated by a top-down cabal of lunatics. Rather, it is conditions on the ground and the active participation of countless non-psychopaths which ensure the execution of such dreadful activities. To put it simply: Genocides, like the “externalities” of capitalism, are in and of themselves instantiations of “psychopathy,” regardless of the number of psychopathic agents engineering their implementation. The problem is systemic, not a result of “bad apples.” A system which rewards avarice is problematic because it is a system which rewards avarice, not because it allows canny crazies to ride slipstream.
The recent panic of “psychos” at the helm reflects a need to assign blame to knowing agents behaving in a deliberate fashion. But it becomes a strange carriage-before-the-horse/chicken-and-egg scenario: Capitalism foments the rise of a “psychopathic class.” And a “psychopathic class” foments the grim successes of capitalism.
Moreover, it denudes class politics of class politics, leaving an intoxicating Manichaean social divide in its wake: Psychopathic Class vs. the class of Everyone Else. Toss out the psychos, and capitalism would be a-okay!
It reads like the bare-bones plot of a bad sci fi movie: In the egalitarian world of Tomorrow, harried and stubbled Blade Runners will hunt down and administer retina scans and Voight-Kampff tests to potential psychos, dismantling the remnants of their terrible cabal.
It’s pure liberal utopianism. Capitalism will thereby be fettered: the cancer cut from its bosom and its further headway bolstered by its naturally occurring salubrious juices.