The Psychopathology of Capitalism – Chapter 2, Pt. 1


As we have seen, theideontologicaldelusion of exclusionary oneness that forms the ideological superstructure of capitalist social relations forcedearly liberal democratic theorists to create an imaginaryindependent and antisocial individual who initially exists in a state of nature.   This individual only goes against his essential antisocial nature and enters into society out of rational self -interest embodied in the fear of death.  Accordingly, he enters into a social contract which is an agreement between antisocial beings whose natures’ cannot be changed, but only controlled to a limited degree by the legitimate violence of the state. Because human nature cannot be changed, the state of nature is logically extended into human society so that society itself becomes but an artificial and unnatural conglomeration of antisocial beings who relate to one another purely in terms of their own individual needs.

However, as history shows us and as Marx points out,this ideontological fantasy is a negation of the fact that man is and has always been asocial creature“The human being is in the most literal sense a political animal not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society. Production by an isolated individual outside society … is as much of an absurdity as is the development of language without individuals living together and talking to each other.Marx, TheGrundrisse (1857)

The contradiction between beings who have been born into capitalism and immersed inthe ideology of individualism, and the actual fact of the their social existences transforms them intoalienated grotesqueries who are extremely dangerous and destructive criminals on the one hand, or ideal capitalists, who are equally dangerous and destructive, on the other. In either case, we are confronted on all sides by exclusionary “ones” who feel no connection to others beyond the use value they may provide.

The grotesquely alienated products of capitalist social relations have, for several centuries, been recognized as “abnormal” and studied by mental health professionals.  However, these health professionals, themselves the product of capitalist social relations, stop short of identifying capitalism as the source of these grotesque distortions of human nature.  Rather, they look in every other direction: genetics, chemical imbalances in the brain, personal trauma and family relations, most particularly, the relationship between mother and child, to find an explanation for the existence and behavior of these “abnormal” characters.In so doing, they fall prey to and sustain the delusion which forms the ideontological foundation of the capitalist relations of production; that the grotesque personality disorders they encounter are individual and unnatural rather than natural results of particular social relations based on the acceptance of the right of one human being to exploit another.

These various personality “disorders” are set forth in DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth ediction), The logic of the DSM is to move from the diagnosis of Personality Disordersin general to the discussion of the specific manifestations of specific disorders which  are categorized under the general label:   Antisocial Personality Disorders. Personality disorders in general are “impairments and deficits in the understanding and functioning of self and interpersonal behaviors.”The criteria for identifying these impairments in individuals include first, Identity Impairment – self-esteem is tied to personal gain, power, and pleasure., These behaviors are markedly ego centric, and second, “the absence of socal conformity to law or other culturally accepted norms. The terms often associated with this behavior, “sociopath and psychopath” have been subsumed in The DSM 5 under the label Antisocial Personality,–5-301.7-(f60.2)\

Logically, because the goals of individuals suffering from APD are “based on personal gain and gratification, “APD individuals exhibit “deficits” in empathy and intimacy.Behavior typical of individuals who suffer from such deficits include, lying, deception, and manipulation, for profit or self-amusement,  They also exhibit impulsive behavior Irritability and aggression, manifested as frequently assaults others, or engage in fighting.  They often blatantly disregard thesafety of self and others, Most significantly they feel no remorse for any physical or emotional pain they cause others. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) The ICD diagnostic criteria of the world likewise prefers to use terms such as Dissocial Personality Disorder, which encompasses amoral, antisocial, asocial, psychopathic and sociopathic personalities. Quite obviously these “Antisocials” as they are often referred to, have the potential to cause great harm to those around them, including family, associates, neighbors, and complete strangers, through financial exploitation, theft, emotional abuse, assault, sexual assault, and homicide.’

Within the profession of psychiatry and psychology itself, the criteria for sociopathy/psychopathy is still the subject of debate.   Some psychologists view these two disorders as separate while others argue  that they but different names for the same disorder, Likewise, some disagree with the new grouping under APD, others believe it is the best option.

Among those who prefer to reference the term psychopath is Robert Hare.  His Psychopathy Worksheet sets the standard for identifying psychopaths   He posits 20 criteria for identifying a psychopath include: superficial charm, grandiose self-worth, boredom and a need for constant stimulation, pathological lying, manipulativeness, lack of remorse or guilt, emotional poverty and/or lack of feelings, a parasitic lifestyle in which they “intentionally manipulate another for financial gain.”  Also included are poor behavioral controls which give rise to sudden irritability, aggression and verbal abuse.  There is also promiscuous sexual behavior.  Whether married or unmarried they will have many affairs, and may coerce and force people into having sex.  They take great pride in their sexual conquests.  We can add to this list impulsivity, lack of long term goals, irresponsibility, and juvenile delinquency.  Also significant is an inability to maintain long term relationships,

But, as many health professionals have come to recognize, rather than there being several different antisocial personality disorders, there is a spectrum, with murdering psychopaths being on one extreme and mild forms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) on the other.  The individual with NPD tends to appear more grandiose and self important than a more charistmatic psychopath might. Because of real and actual feelings of inadequancy he struggles to believe that he is superior or unique, and uses others to feed his ego.  Like all those who suffer from APD he has no genuine feelings of empathy for others. Like psychopaths, he feels entitled to exploit and use others without feeling guilt or remorse.

Increasingly,  psychologists understand as well that classification of personality disorders is not a matter of yes or no, or either/or, but rather that many if not most individuals fall in between folks who are “normal” and true psychopaths. “These are individuals who would never be diagnosed as a psychopath, but whose behavior to varying degrees can be just as deceptive, dangerous, and remorseless as that of a full-blown psychopath. These individuals are sub-clinical psychopaths, what my colleague James Silver and I refer to as “almost psychopaths” in our upcoming book, Almost a Psychopath.”

“And if we consider that the financial services industry may select for people with characteristics of psychopathy, it is fair to say that the number of people in the industry who fall into the “almost” range is …..high. As such, individuals predisposed to fraud, deceit, manipulation, and insider trading may be far more numerous than the 10% estimate that has attracted so much attention.

So what do we learn about people who manifest the symptoms of antisocial personality disorders from psychopathy to almost psychopathy?  We learn that regardless of the particular form of their illnesses, they share many of the same symptoms:  They perceive themselves and behave as if they were “exclusionary ones.” They regard others only in terms of their own needs and use others to fulfill those needs whether those needs be psychological, sexual or financial.  They have no feelings of empathy, of remorse, of guilt.  They are dishonest and they are dangerous.  They are the disconnected, antisocial,  grotesque beings that, as Marx told us, capitalism has alienated from their species nature.

This is a condensed version

Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.

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