Sociopathic Behavior & the Economic Crisis April 3, 2013
Posted by larry in economics, Psychology.
As the new Eurostat data shows, unemployment in the EU17 has risen again. Mitchell contends in his recent post, and I agree, that this is policy induced and can, therefore, be avoided only by certain policy changes. One such change, of course, would be to backtrack on austerity.
Mitchell characterizes the policy makers or their advisers as sociopaths. I thought it would be good to distinguish between psychopathy and sociopathy. I should warn you that these definitions are slightly different than those provided by Robert Hare, a leading expert of psychopathic behavior and designer of the Psychopathy Checklist used by law enforcement agencies around the world. It needs also to be pointed out that the kind of psychopaths that are under discussion are organized and non-violent physically. The damage they cause is emotional, which can be just as destructive as physical damage if not sometimes more so. Here is a slide that makes the requisite distinctions for a talk I gave a while ago (apologies if it is fuzzy – due to WordPress).
Hare does not agree with Bakan that a corporation can be psychopathic; in his view, only individuals can be psychopathic. One could, however, look at Bakan’s usage as a metaphorical extension of the term. It then becomes a further question whether such an extension is useful. Having said that, Hare contends that corporations and like organizations have become more psychopath friendly.
It needs to be noted that psychopathy (and sociopathy) is a syndrome, hence, in order to classify an individual as being psychopathic, they must exhibit a number of the traits in the list on the right, not just one or two. For example, narcissism is often mistaken for psychopathy, and this is because narcissistic behavior is a component of true psychopathic behavior patterns. Determining whether an individual is truly psychopathic, however, is quite difficult to do clinically. A lot of information about the individual’s behavior over time is necessary in order to reach this kind of diagnosis. Having said that, under my definitions, there are more sociopathic individuals than there are true psychopaths. Hare reckons that around 2% of the American population are true psychopaths, that is, exhibit psychopathic behavior patterns in every aspect of their lives and in every social role they play. This is unlike sociopaths, who are psychopathic only part of the time, usually only in certain situations or when playing certain roles. Although not truly psychopathic, they do leave a good deal of emotional damage in their wake.
You undoubtedly know or have known or worked with someone who is either psychopathic or sociopathic. I have, more than once, and these were not pleasant experiences. [Display problems with WordPress in this post.]