Developing a comment from a couple of weeks ago, there’s been a lot of talk among some people recently of the world being ruled by psychopaths. There’s even a facebook group called ‘Psychopaths Rule The World‘ which has an unfortunate tendency to get into conspiracy theories. On the face of it is a plausible explanation for the fact that leaders go to war when their citizens don’t want it, or for the fact that they deliberately impose impoverishment policies on their populations in the name of austerity.

An article at Jacobin by one Cyrus Lewis refutes this standpoint on the grounds that it is looking at individuals when we should be looking at class relations:

It denudes class politics of class politics, leaving an intoxicating Manichaean social divide in its wake: Psychopathic Class vs. the class of Everyone Else. Toss out the psychos, and capitalism would be a-okay!

But the paragraph before that is interesting:

The recent panic of “psychos” at the helm reflects a need to assign blame to knowing agents behaving in a deliberate fashion. But it becomes a strange carriage-before-the-horse/chicken-and-egg scenario: Capitalism foments the rise of a “psychopathic class.” And a “psychopathic class” foments the grim successes of capitalism.

I don’t see that it does create a chicken-or-egg scenario. The last two sentences are perfectly consistent with each other. It’s just a feedback loop. Or to put it another way, like the chicken-or-egg problem, it isn’t a chicken-or-egg problem – they evolved together.

I agree with the author that looking just at the individuals in charge doesn’t get you very far. But I think that if you just look at the constructed category of ‘class’ you will also miss a lot of what is going on.

Can’t we explain the feedback loop above by saying that the organisational structures we have encourage the rise of people without functioning consciences through the ranks? So while it is true that we have structures that encourage otherwise empathic people to behave in a certain way, we also have structures that create filtering processes for getting to the top?

While these forms of organisation have historically been embedded in processes that go under the heading of class dynamics, it may be worth considering certain types of task-oriented hierarchical organising as worth re-thinking not just in order to in order to change social relations, but to more generally prevent people without consciences gaining too much power over us – a potentiality that remains even within a hypothesised classless society.