Sociopathic Society

By Charles Derber Professor of Sociology at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

“The sociopathic behavior is not a reflection of brain chemistry gone awry but of the triumph of a sociopathic system of institutions and elites who have rewritten social norms, rewritten the law, reconfigured the institutional power arena in such an extreme way that they have created a society in which the dominant norms of behavior require sociopathic conduct for survival.”

This is the dilemma that the sociopathic society creates. The people may not be psychologically disposed to be anti-social, to the environment and to other people. But in order to function within the system they have to hook up with sociopathic institutions and carry out behavior that is destructive and anti-social.

“A sociopathic society is one that develops anti-societal rules of behavior, our whole structure is designed to focus us on biology and personalities and not institutions. We see individuals, we don’t see systems.”

“The intense and frightening way of sociopathic behavior is being carried out by large scale corporations, which are fundamentally sociopathic in their DNA, their charter and the larger market and political economy in which they operate.”

The key to the Fifth Empire was the view, largely associated with neo-conservatives, that America must become permanently and overwhelmingly militarily dominant. But the first leader of the Fifth Empire was no neocon-servative but President Bill Clinton.
To seek global dominance is immoral, but to do so in the name of fighting evil is worse—hypocrisy that is classic immoral morality. Bush repeatedly defined the War on Terrorism—his umbrella policy to expand US global power—as a pure moral struggle to destroy evil and assure the triumph of goodness: “We’re taking action against evil people. . . . Our war is a waragainst evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it—good will prevail.”

Are people who are plugged into a sociopathic society sociopaths? “Not all of them,”

If you are a worker for ExxonMobil, are you a sociopath? ExxonMobil is one of the most sociopathic institutions in the world,”  The fact that they are producing fossil fuels makes them sociopathic? The corporation is sociopathic. The executives who are making the rules and dictating the behavior of the corporation, which is helping to destroy the planet, is sociopathic. The workers are trying to make a living. Some workers, whether in the oil sector or not, don’t have a lot of options. They take what they can get. Is that sociopathic? Is it sociopathic to survive?

“Are they sociopaths? Their behavior contributes to sociopathic ends. But their motives are not necessarily sociopathic. The institution’s DNA is driven by sociopathic imperatives.

“Societies can be anti-social. Corporate America is an anti-social beast. It is destroying much of the environment, it is destroying many people’s lives.”

“People recognize that we are becoming a third world system of inequality — the wealth is going to the one percent of the one percent,”

“The vast majority of the rest of the population engages in day to day economic struggle. Piketty captured that general awareness, which had not been fully articulated. He showed that this was a reality that transcended time and place in capitalism. He took data from over 20 countries and over 200 years. He showed that this is the way our system operates. He took this sociopathic inequality and made it clear that it is built into the nature of the system we are living in. “

“It’s not just if you are born black you will be black for life. It’s that if you are born into the working class poor, which is increasingly the disinherited majority, who don’t inherit wealth, then you are born into that station for life. The American dream, the idea of a meritocracy, the idea that you are going to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, Piketty’s data washes that whole concept away. ”

Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States (Paradigm Publishers, 2013).


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