Capitalism: A System Run By and For Psychopaths

Sunday, February 25, 2007
Capitalism: A System Run By and For Psychopaths

The Compensated Psychopath**

The famed Swiss psychiatrist Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig, Jungian author of The Emptied Soul, believes that many psychopaths (a.k.a. sociopaths) who walk among us are often those who hold upstanding positions in society. Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig calls them “compensated” psychopaths. Unfortunately, psychopathy showing up in places other than a prison or mental hospital is an extremely serious and all too common social problem, partly because just one compensated psychopath can so adversely affect the lives of so many unsuspecting, trusting people.

These psychopaths can be economically and emotionally (if not physically) “socially dangerous” — capable of unbelievably appalling acts. In 1941 Dr. Hervey Cleckley discussed the “partial psychopath” when he talked about “incomplete manifestations or suggestions of the disorder” in psychiatrists, physicians, businessmen, etc. “Compensated” psychopaths were described as the subclinical psychopath or subcriminal psychopath by the famous Dr. Robert Hare. These doctors are all talking about the same problem — psychopathy. Pure psychopaths really do exist, but even so, they are very, very rare. It is the vastly more common so-called compensated, or partial, psychopaths (Adolph Hitler is an extreme example; see link 3, below) who are the far more insidious, and pervasive, social problem.

Hervey Cleckley (best known for co-authorship of The Three Faces of Eve), a pioneer in the field who provided the first coherent, thorough description of what he called the “psychopath” (and the “partial” psychopath), wrote:

Although they occasionally appear on casual inspection as successful members of the community, as able lawyers, executives, or physicians . . . . [t]he true difference between them and the psychopaths who continually go to jails or to psychiatric hospitals is that they keep up a far better and more consistent outward appearance of being normal.

“Partial” Psychopaths

Regardless of whether they are characterized as compensated psychopaths, partial psychopaths, subclinical psychopaths or subcriminal psychopaths, these psychopaths cause others to suffer immeasurably from their own psychopathy, and conveniently for them they do it without a trace of their always nonexistent conscience. Dr. Robert D. Hare, the world’s foremost expert on the psychopath, has described psychopathy as “a socially devastating disorder defined by a constellation of affective, interpersonal, and behavioral characteristics.”

Particularly characteristic of the psychopath are shallow emotions, the utter absence of empathy, guilt, or remorse, glibness/superficial charm, manipulativeness, inconsistency, deceitfulness/lying and a grandiose sense of self-worth.

Lacking any genuine remorse, psychopaths also lack the motivation to change. It’s generally thought that not only do psychopaths not get better with treatment, they actually get worse because they learn how to better manipulate the system, as well as the clinicians who try to treat them. According to Robert Hare, “Administrators actually took it to mean that not only are they not treatable, but if they’re going to be worse, let’s do everybody the service of not treating them.” Dr. Hare believes in developing a good treatment plan; there just isn’t one yet.

The term Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) was originally meant to replace the charged (and not clearly distinguishable) terms psychopath and sociopath to describe psychopathy, but Dr. Hare argues convincingly that ASPD and psychopathy are in reality, by their actual definitions, describing different disorders. The incidence of ASPD has been estimated at 3% in males and 1% in females, while the rate of psychopathy is about 20% to 50% of the rate of ASPD. With 300 million people, the United States therefore has a range of roughly 1.2 to 3 million psychopaths within it’s borders in 2006, and because there are fewer than 100 (clearly dangerous) serial killers, this suggests that about 1.2 to 3 million other socially dangerous psychopaths, existing on a continuum of varying degrees of severity, are wreaking their havoc in countless other devastating and socially dangerous ways.

The Psychopaths Are Winning

Psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley, in his seminal work The Mask of Sanity (1941), which first put together the characteristics of psychopaths, noted that psychopaths are “apparently sane, often dynamic . . . almost always seductive . . . impress others with their sincere motives and positive intentions and wind up causing great institutional and personal harm. With an unexplainable capacity to engender trust, even in experienced and cynical observers, these people create chaos . . . The single most powerful diagnostic test was his own willingness to cash their checks . . . Charm, a quick sensitivity to the unspoken needs of others, and a certain flexibility with the truth are woven into a personal charisma that entrances.”

As psychiatrist A. J. Mandell noted, “Cleckley speaks of the psychopath’s immunity from anxiety, extraordinary poise, sense of well-being, and remorselessness.”

Psychologist Robert Hare, in his classic book Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (1993), states:

Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret. Their bewildered victims desperately ask, “How can we protect ourselves?”

Dr. Hare notes that the psychopath “can use words any way he wants. If you catch him lying, he’ll just shift gears and go on as though nothing had happened.”

To explain why people are so easily taken in by these superficially charming and socially adept, but socially dangerous, psychopaths, in Without Conscience Robert Hare quotes from William March’s The Bad Seed (1954):

Good people are rarely suspicious: they cannot imagine others doing the things they themselves are incapable of doing; usually they accept the undramatic solution as the correct one, and let matters rest there. Then too, the normal are inclined to visualize the [psychopath] as one who’s as monstrous in appearance as he is in mind, which is about as far from the truth as one could well get . . . These monsters of real life usually looked and behaved in a more normal manner than their actually normal brothers and sisters; they presented a more convincing picture of virtue than virtue presented of itself – just as the wax rosebud or the plastic peach seemed more perfect to the eye, more what the mind thought a rosebud or a peach should be, than the imperfect original from which it had been modeled.

Robert Hare recently said, “The majority of people and therefore workplaces are easy prey, because we still want to believe that people are inherently good. We don’t really want to believe that such people exist.” So it is that Dr. Hare, the world’s best-known expert on the psychopath, concludes that the ultimate problem is — “Us!”

By contrast, writer Henry Lloyd-Roberts concluded by re-framing the issue from the opposite perspective in “How to Spot the Office Psychopath”:

. . . These ‘qualities’ are fundamental in helping them [psychopaths] climb the corporate ladder:
They can be manipulative, arrogant, callous, impatient, impulsive, unreliable, superficially charming and susceptible to flying into rages. Further redeeming features include a fondness for breaking promises and blaming colleagues when things go wrong. It is their single-minded focus, however, that helps them to achieve their corporate goals.

According to Professor Hare, who led the research:

“Wherever you find money, prestige and power you will find them. The most important thing is to be aware you are working with a psychopath. Then you are in better position to deal with them.”

The fundamental characteristic of all psychopaths is having no conscience and consequently lacking any empathy with their fellow man. Small wonder then that they seem to particularly thrive in industries where a little ruthlessness goes a long way, namely business, law, politics and the media.

A Garrison Keillor-type might call such people well-compensated psychopaths, but like I said, they’re winning!

Intro To Psychopathy: Links

Click the links below to learn more about compensated (partial) psychopaths & psychopathy generally:

1. The New York Times > Magazine > Psychopathic C.E.O.’s (registration is free)
2. The Psychopathic or Sociopathic Personality
3.**The Compensated Psychopath – from The Emptied Soul – Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig
4. Incomplete Manifestations or Suggestions of the Disorder – Hervey Cleckley
5. Discussion with Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig and James Hillman
6. The Emptied Soul – Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig – excerpts
7. Quotes about Psychopathy
8. Without Conscience – Robert Hare — book review by Muriel Fraser
9. Psychology Today: Predators – from Without Conscience – Robert Hare, Ph.D.
10. Snakes in Suits – Robert Hare and Paul Babiak — pre-publication lecture review
11. All about Dr. Robert Hare – Expert on the Psychopath – What is a Psychopath?
12. The Mask of Sanity – Hervey Cleckley, M.D. – excerpts
13. Discussion of Psychopathy Traits – The Mask of Sanity – Hervey Cleckley
14. The Psychopath – Special Report on Psychopathy
15. Official Culture in America: A Natural State of Psychopathy?-L. Knight-Jadczyk
Related Psychopathy Links . . .

Site Map – You Are Here Socially Dangerous Compensated Psychopath Guide
Socially Dangerous Partial Psychopaths: The Compensated Psychopath
Compensated, Partial, Subcriminal, and Subclinical Psychopathy Links


About jimcraven10

About jimcraven10 1. Citizenship: Blackfoot, U.S. and Canadian; 2. Position: tenured Professor of Economics and Geography; Dept. Head, Economics; 3. Teaching, Consulting and Research experience: approx 40 + years all levels high school to post-doctoral U.S. Canada, Europe, China, India, Puerto Rico and parts of E. Asia; 4. Work past and present: U.S. Army 1963-66; Member: Veterans for Peace; former VVAW; Veterans for 9-11 Truth; Scholars for 9-11 Truth; Pilots for 9-11 Truth; World Association for Political Economy; Editorial Board International Critical Thought; 4.. U.S. Commercial-Instrument Pilot ; FAA Licensed Ground Instructor (Basic, Advanced, Instrument and Simulators); 5. Research Areas and Publications: International law (on genocide, rights of nations, war and war crimes); Imperialism (nature, history, logic, trajectories, mechanisms and effects); Economic Geography (time and space modeling in political economy; globalization--logic and effects; Political Economy and Geography of Imperialism); Indigenous versus non-Indigenous Law; Political Economy of Socialism and Socialist Construction; 6. Member, Editorial Board, "International Critical Thought" published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; International Advisory Board and Columnist 4th Media Group, (Beijing); 7. Other Websites publications at;;; 8.Biography available in: Marquis Who’s Who: in the World (16th-18th; 20th; 22nd -31st (2014) Editions); Who’s Who in America (51st-61st;63rd-68th(2014) Editions); Who’s Who in the West (24th- 27th Editions);Who’s Who in Science and Engineering (3rd to 6th, 8th, 11th (2011-2012) Editions); Who’s Who in Finance and Industry (29th to 37th Editions); Who’s Who in American Education (6th Edition). ------------------- There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state, to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
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One Response to Capitalism: A System Run By and For Psychopaths

  1. DrSteve says:

    This is such an important topic. I’m part way through writing a series of blog posts on psychopathy. An idea that’s bubbling away for me is the relationship between narcissism and psychopathy. So many of the features you describe – including the rise of the phenomenon of psychopathy – were mentioned by Lasch in ‘The Culture of Narcissism’. Could it be that narcissism and psychopathy are – if not the same thing(!) – two responses to the same internal emptiness?

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