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Sociopathic societies – Editor

Anger (Bryce Bradford, 8 May 2013, Flickr cc)

In the July-August 2019 issue of ERA Review we reproduced an article by psychotherapist Dr Paul Verhaeghe entitled “Has neoliberalism turned us all into psychopaths?”. I was reminded of this article when reading a recent blog by Ken Zimmerman [1,2], which discussed – from a U.S. perspective – modern personality disorders, embracing such traits as self-centred behaviour, envy, lack of empathy, behavioural irresponsibility, manipulation of others, and compromise of morality and ethics in order to achieve desired ends.

Quoting from Zimmerman’s article:

“ A society where such actions and beliefs are common is sociopathic. Americans might not recognize the term “sociopathic society”, but today they are staring it in the face. After every mass shooting, every cut in vital services, every sabotage of democracy, people were afraid, rightly, for their children and themselves. Our current dysfunctionality involves far more than military – style gun massacres and an armed, angry population. It reflects an economy, politics, and culture that are a fertile foundation for a sociopathic society. It’s my view that the U.S., with a long history of sociopathic institutions and practices, is now evolving toward a full-blown sociopathic society. “

For around forty years, ever since Mrs Thatcher said “There is no such thing as Society”, we have been training generations to be neoliberal oriented functionaries. Systems were set up to reward sociopathic qualities and to characterise its practitioners as “winners”, while those who refused to be motivated by greed were dismissed as “losers”. Is it wise to attempt to enforce personal responsibility on people who have merely absorbed the values that a dysfunctional society wanted them to have? And if we begin by demonising people thought to be greedy, we may well create conditions for a civil war rather than solve our collective problems. The problem is systemic.



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