Defending Sociopathy

I think it is fairly well known that corporations display sociopathic behaviors (see the documentary “The Corporation”). Many business founders and commentators have noted that a business generally tends to amplify the characteristics of its founders, so what does a sociopathic corporation say about its founder?

It should be noted that the defining trait of sociopaths is their lack of empathy. Here’s the kicker: empathy is not necessary to be a “good” person. Empathy results in emotional fatigue and is unsustainable as a motivating force, leading to cynicism and apathy. Empathy is good to identify a problem on an emotional level, but insufficient for a sustained effort (Abraham Lincoln is now considered to have been clinically depressed, to which some historians believe that his depression enabled him to see the ills of his society more clearly than his contemporaries) .

Consider also the case of James Fallon, a neuroscientist who discovered he was a psychopath after looking at a scan of his brain. He describes himself as a “pro-social” psychopath (as opposed to an antisocial psychopath). I don’t believe he is an isolated case. Looking at Jeff Bezos’ treatment of his employees or Steve Jobs’ treatment of his ex-wife and daughter, we can see sociopathic tendencies in these titans of industry, but it is interesting to me that they managed to harness their tendencies towards arguable social good.

Is it possible to institutionalize “pro-social” psychopathy in a structure like corporations and would this create greater net benefits for society?

One thought on “Defending Sociopathy

  1. In some other societies, there is the happy combination of low levels of inequality and segregation with high levels of social trust and community. I’d argue that these are the normal conditions of humanity for most of evolution.

    And under these conditions, people don’t experience empathy fatigue nor much in the way of related problems. For example, among hunter-gatherers, anxiety and depression are rare to non-existent. It seems clear to me that psychopathy is not normal, even if it has become the norm among the ruling elite in our society.

    Psychopathy, in the modern industrialized world and as part of the dark triad, appears to be inseparable from fascist-like corporatocracy and inverted totalitarianism. I don’t know if it is inevitable for psychopathy to express this way. But it is useful to note that traditional societies often were careful to keep psychopathy in check, including banishing or killing psychopaths.

    As for Bezos, it is highly questionable that he has been a net benefit to our society.


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