Open Thread - 01-21-22 - Are Corporations Psychopathic?
Definition of psychopath according to Miriam Webster: A mentally unstable person. Especially : a person having an egocentric and antisocial personality marked by a lack of remorse for one's actions, an absence of empathy for others, and often criminal tendencies.
Are corporations psychopathic by definition?
Today corporations hold immense power and control. Some work in lockstep with the government in the form of lobbying, writing legislation and censorship, among other forms of persuasion.
IMHO corporations by definition are psychopathic because of corporate charter's dependency on making money for the shareholders which allows them to create psychopathic policies that absolves themselves from doing the best for humanity.
Psychopathic corporations donate to psychopathic leaders that lead to a psychopathic society.
Machiavelli Inc: Are corporations psychopaths?
Corporations are legal, but it’s hard to consider them moral. A philosopher asks whether they should be thought of as psychopaths.
Psychopaths – those extremely rare people such as US serial killer Ted Bundy – are fascinating. On one hand they’re typically intelligent, personable, disinhibited and have an aura of confidence that many find alluring. But they differ from the rest of the population in one key dimension: They lack empathy and feelings of guilt and remorse.
Now consider a corporation. Even though it is composed of many people, it’s legally considered to be a person too. This is a necessary legal concept to allow corporations to do things such as own property, open bank accounts and buy and sell goods in their own right.
Yet we also relate to corporations as if they are singular entities, rather than agglomerations of workers. Sometimes we even anthropomorphise the corporation – we treat it like a person.
Research by Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske shows we employ the same psychological mechanisms to judge a corporation’s ‘personality’, its ‘intentions’ and ‘values’, which we use to judge other people. This is why you might catch yourself ‘hating’ your phone company, ‘liking’ your bank or wondering if your health insurance company has your best interests at heart.
But when we use that psychological machinery to judge a corporation’s moral character, it can start looking a lot like a psychopath, as law professor Joel Bakan argued in his book and film The Corporation.
The “corporations are evil” meme has been around for a long time. It has been said that they have “neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn.” (That quotation has been attributed to several sources, including Andrew Jackson in the 19th century and the Lord Chancellor of England, Baron Thurlow in the 18th.) The Corporation, a documentary produced in 2003, presents several examples of corporate malfeasance and asks whether these antisocial behaviors match the criteria for diagnosing psychopathy in individuals.
The most famous and widely-used test of psychopathy is the PCL-R, developed by Dr. Robert Hare. When he agreed to serve as a consultant to the producers of The Corporation, Dr. Hare said he was assured that the film would use “psychopath” to mean egregious corporate wrongdoing. Instead, the film portrays corporations in general as amoral, incapable of remorse, dismissive of legal or social norms, and therefore psychopathic in the clinical sense. In response, Dr. Hare has written this:
"To refer to the corporation as psychopathic because of the behaviors of a carefully selected group of companies is like using the traits and behaviors of the most serious high-risk criminals to conclude that the criminal (that is, all criminals) is a psychopath. If [common diagnostic criteria] were applied to a random set of corporations, some might apply for the diagnosis of psychopathy, but most would not."
The corporation is a legal construct, indeed a legal fiction. It is not something created by God or by Nature, but rather a legally created and enforced set of relations designed to raise capital for industrialism’s large projects. Its main function is to separate the owners of an enterprise from the enterprise itself.
What has the corporation become?
The corporation’s central institutional function – concentrating thousands, even millions, of investors’ capital into one enterprise – also created the potential for enterprises to become very large and powerful.
There were initially limitations on their power – caps on growth, restrictions on multi-sector involvement, competition laws, and so on – but over twentieth century these were weakened and eliminated.
So, you have these huge and powerful institutions, compelled by their institutional characters to pursue self-interest regardless of the consequences, bent on avoiding or pushing out of the way anything that impedes their missions – such as regulations, taxes, and public provision – creating wealth for anonymous and unaccountable shareholders, and with no democratic accountability to the people (other than their shareholders) affected by their decisions and actions.
There are many examples of psychopathy in past and present politics. I think it's safe to say that corporations are in control by means of lobbyist buying politicians and writing the laws that protect them.
In the old days psychopaths were dealt with differently than they are today, in a permanent manner, if you know what I mean. Today corporate psychopaths are rewarded with huge salaries and bonuses. How do we fix that?
Solutions: Reform corporate charter? Reform corporate personhood?
Thanks for reading.
Are Corporations Psychopathic? A Corporate View of “The Corporation”
This is an open thread so talk the talk.