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The Psychopathy of Corporate Functionality

Updated on March 9, 2014

A killer Corporate World

What are we Talking About?

"About one in every 100 people doesn’t care what others think of him. These people are hard to spot. They are usually physically healthy, and their intelligence is often above average. Yet, in the words of one psychiatrist, they lie without compunction, cheat, steal, and casually violate any and all norms of social conduct whenever it suits their whim. They have no concern for others’ suffering, no remorse when caught, and punishment does little to change them. They are called psychopaths."

This is an excerpt from People Will Talk: The Surprising Science of Reputation, by John Whitfield. In it he explains exactly what a psychopath is, what he may or may not know is that he is also describing many international, giant corporations and companies. In short, many of these large companies function as a psychopath.

I know that this isn't a new theory/thought, in fact it has been researched and studied for years now, but with the recession in Ireland, it seems the psychopathy of companies is rising, more and more Irish companies are in competition with each other and giving deals that make customers think they are winning when they are not, among other activities that suggest these companies couldn't care less about anything other than their own success.

The Corporate Psychopaths dominate the Anthill!

So what Do They Have in Common Exactly?

Its simple:

Callous disregard for the feelings of others.

Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships.

Reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Deceitfulness: repeated lying and deceiving others for profit.

Incapacity to experience guilt or empathy.

Failure to conform to social norms, especially with respect to lawful behaviors.

Common traits of Psychopathic Behavior:

More traits of the Psychopath (including the Corporate Psychopath) include:

Lack of remorse for evils done to others

Indifference to the suffering of its victims

Rationalizes their actions

Willingness to exploit, seduce or manipulate others

No sign of delusional or irrational thinking.

Cunning, clever

Commonly above average intelligence,

Always looking for ways to make money or achieve fame or notoriety

Willing to cause or contribute to the financial ruin of others

Cannot be trusted to adhere to conventional standards of morality.

Common Denominators:

There are a number of common denominators that link human criminals (Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, etc) and corporate criminals (Coca-Cola, Nestle, Cadbury's, Mac Donalds, Nike). There is much more in common between these two than would first appear. But in order to examine that, we must first examine the differences.

The difference between someone like Ted Bundy and a company like Mac Donalds is that one is a singular form, a person, with their own thoughts and fantasies, a being of personal ideas. The other is a large group of people with like minded ideas, a mass of thoughts and fantasies that amalgamate into one whole system of thought. In this whole system of thought the company will perform in a similar way to the singular Psychopath, in that they do what they want, whey they please and without any regard for anything other than themselves. However, another more important difference between the two is the reason for said actions. While someone like Ted Bundy or Ed Gein will harm another person for personal satisfaction and a compulsion to control while Corporations act in a similar fashion purely chasing capitalist ideas. They will act in a psychopathic manner to gain as much profit from their company as possible.

For one, the corporations, being just as afraid of facing the music as psychopaths are, will use any means necessary to evade or delay justice. Similarly, none of them will admit their guilt and none of them can be expected to show any genuine remorse for the massive human suffering their actions have caused. An example of this can be found in Coca Cola, a massive corporation that has been causing global issues since its conception.

Beginning around 1999, Coca Cola became the focus of a series of controversies about its practices both at home and abroad. In the United States, the company faced charges of racial discrimination, accusations that its marketing efforts contributed to the national obesity problem and criticism over the environmental impact of its move into the bottled water business. Overseas, it has been linked to the brutal repression of trade unionists in Colombia and the depletion of drinking water in parts of India.

For many years Coca Cola faced criticism in connection with the low wages and poor conditions for migrant workers employed at its Minute Maid subsidiary. Conditions improved somewhat after Minute Maid signed a contract with the United Farm Workers in 1972.

what's the likelihood your boss has psychopathic tendencies?

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy is notorious because of his callous disregard for others while appearing to be a normal caring person with empathy like everyone else.
Ted Bundy is notorious because of his callous disregard for others while appearing to be a normal caring person with empathy like everyone else.

The Personhood of American Corporations:

In 2010 the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling granted Personhood to Corporations, thereby, legally recognizing them as an individual in the eyes of the law.

This ruling has emboldened the already powerful and very corruptible multinational corporations by making legal the absurd and unethical notion that inanimate corporations deserve the same rights (but not the same responsibilities) as living humans. Corporations are not people and possess only the privileges we willfully grant them but granting corporations the status of legal “persons” effectively means that the constitution will serve corporate interests as if they were human interests. It is a privilege that undermines our freedom as individuals with separate interests and beliefs. There is a reason this is important in identifying Psychopathic traits of industries such as Coca Cola and Nike, and that is quite simply, the constant need to be ahead of everyone else, the need for more power than everyone else, (similar to the Sociopath) and as 'Reclaim Democracy' put it : "We the People are not; for we can never speak as loudly with our own voices as corporations can with the unlimited amplification of money."(

The reason the person-hood title is so important in corporations is that, if these companies were indeed people, they would most definitely be psychopaths or sociopaths.

Corporations know that they have enough capital to get out of any legal issue, be it Eco-awareness and ethical functionalities within the company, and this narcissistic tendency that we see with nearly all major companies is the callous disregard for others that we see in people like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy.

Corporate Crime:

Coca Cola have had many controversial issues surrounding the production of their product.
Coca Cola have had many controversial issues surrounding the production of their product.

American Psycho....Corporations have 2 Faces Too

You can certainly tell that this guys crazy.....
You can certainly tell that this guys crazy.....
but could you tell from this picture?
but could you tell from this picture?

The Two faces of Psychopaths (both Corporate and Individual)

With the age of digital enlightenment well upon us, Corporations are now having to appear to be either people friendly or Eco friendly, in order to keep customers happy. Consumers want to know that they are buying products that are ethical, don't harm animals, safe to recycle and that don't exploit, they would 'Go Green' as the slogan says. In an effort to keep customers these corporations and giant companies will appear to the public to be green and behave in this manner, however upon closer they will not (by their very nature) be capable of doing so, because recycling and eco-friendly materials are much more expensive. Being an Eco Friendly company costs a lot of money. There is, after all, a reason people don't go green to begin with, its cheaper doing it the bad way. Now companies are dying to go green because they know it will help the progress of their company and bring in more capital. However, while everyone is congratulating and clapping backs for going green, there are still obvious uneco-friendly issues within these companies, say for example the use of plastic, made from oil, a fossil fuel, the opposite of Eco friendly, and yet, nearly every product we buy off the shelf is covered in more than one layer of plastic, and more often than not, the thin film plastic which (as of right now in Ireland) is still not recyclable.

To use a pop culture reference, and because I hate him, Bono. A massive, global success, with hands in many different pots and charities. Known as a charity mogul, Bono is revered worldwide for his work in Africa and his support of 36 charities. By and large this man can be seen as an influential and ethical person, and yet, he is not what he seems. His band U2 have been evading taxes for years, by off-shoring a share of its income through the Netherlands. A band that makes millions, a man who criticizes the government’s economic strategies in Ireland, a man who appears to be fair, and yet while millions of Irish citizens pay nearly half their earnings in Tax, U2 decided they were not going to pay theirs. How is this like a psychopath? Well, first appearances would portray Bono as a great person, totally caring and compassionate, when in fact he is the opposite, a capital hungry, and greedy man who wants everything he can get his hands on by using his work in all 36 charities to further his career. Ted Bundy was similar, appearing to women as a charming and charismatic man, but behind that mask was a viscous killer who held no empathy for anyone other than himself.

These are the two faces of psychopathy, the one they want you to see, and the one they don't. Nike for years used sweatshops to make their top of the line sportswear, an action that was totally unknown to the public and the customers buying the products. Even after the allegations were made, it took Nike years to change their policies and make the conditions for their workers better. An example of both the faces of Nike:

"Nike was the subject of considerable scandal in 1997 when it was revealed that workers in one of its contract factories were being exposed to toxic fumes at up to 177 times the Vietnamese legal limit. Although Nike claims that its factories now meet OSHA standards, it gives factory managers advance notice of testing, giving them considerable scope to change chemical use to minimize emissions on the day the test is conducted....Nike's track record in protecting workers who blow the whistle on sweatshop conditions is very poor. The company has turned its back on individual workers who have been victimized for speaking to journalists, and has cut and run from other factories after labor abuses have been publicized. Until this changes, Nike workers will have good reason to keep silent about factory conditions for fear that speaking honestly may result in them and their fellow workers losing their jobs." (

Stewie knows how it goes!

The more land/produce/rights/customers the better!
The more land/produce/rights/customers the better!
Even Tesco maintain the Zero Sum attitude in order to gain success but cause the failure of other companies.
Even Tesco maintain the Zero Sum attitude in order to gain success but cause the failure of other companies.

The Compulsion to Expand: Zero Sum Mentality

Greed, it's a massive impulse when it comes to both psychopaths and corporations, but not just plain old greed for the sake of greed, its on a much higher scale. The need to own more land, more factories, more products and more money, these are the things that corporations worry about, and seek to dominate. Obviously the company with 10 factories worldwide is better than a company with one factory, the same goes for money, land and produce. Coca Cola started off with one clear product, now they own a range of different (equally unhealthy and unethical) soft drinks, from Coke zero to lime or cherry flavored cola drinks. Its affiliated with Fanta and Dr Pepper, along with around 30 other products. This is wholly due to industry greed, something very similar to how a psychopath/sociopath would think. In 'American Psycho' Patrick Bateman is constantly trying to get higher positions within his company, he needs to look his best at all times, doing 1000 crunches every morning followed by rigorous cleansing routine. He needs his colleagues to see him as dominant and powerful, to the point where he feels jealous over someone else business cards:

"Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark!"

Bateman then goes out and gets new business cards for himself in an attempt to once again be better than his colleagues. This is something corporate business' do all the time. Its a zero-sum attitude that has started wars. We need our competitors to fail if we are to succeed. Its not good enough that you own the best products, you are not successful until your opponent has failed. There must be one winner and one loser; for every gain there is a loss. And the success of most global companies hinges on the failure of others.

An interesting example of this came in the Metro last week. A massive one page advertisement saying that Tesco will accept their competitors coupons. What's interesting about this is the fact that not only are they stealing customers from companies that are doing little bits to help their loyal customers, Tesco is saving money by not having to print out its own coupons. So Tesco in an attempt to secure its competitors customers have spent nothing, and stolen coupons from other supermarkets, all of which is totally legal. Tesco have personified the Zero-sum attitude perfectly.

Who should we be more afraid of:

No empathy
without empathy corporations behave as if they are the only ones that are important. Nothing matters but their success.
With single psychopaths no empathy can be a chilling factor. But it effects only a few people compaired to the corporate psychopathy
Corporate psychopathy is much scarier, its happens on larger scales than singular psychopaths.
failure to conform to social norms
Corporations will do this secretly, they will appear to be doing business ethically and correct while secretly doing things that would be normally considered unethical.
Single psychopaths do this too, they appear as normal people with thoughts and ideas, when in fact they have no feelings and just pretend to follow social norms
Both are equally as threatening in this category
impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
Many corporations only have a few years in sight, they wont see the bigger picture or the effects they will have on both the world and people in the future
Psychopaths can sometimes be a little different, but they can fail to see how their actions will effect themselves, they will only take into account whats happening now rather than tomorrow.
For single psychopaths, their failure to look into the future hinders their progress, corporations not so much, they may lose oney in the process but it wouldnt have as big an effect.
reckless disregard for safety of self or others
Corporations will do whatever is necessary to ensure the success of their company, no matter what that means for anyone else. They will use low wages, underage workers, despicable work environments and all in the name of saving some money.
Well this one is kind of obvious....
Both equally threatening, but again, corporate psychopathy happens on a larger scale meaning it would affect more people
lack of remorse
When caught many corporations will lie to get out of trouble not because they feel bad but because they rationalize their actions, ie "its for the good of the company, it made economic sense". It usually
Psychopaths do not have feelings, they feel no sadness, happiness etc, so obviously they dont regret having hurt anyone.
Again, both are equal in this. A lack of remorse means no empathy, no sympathy and thus no respect.
Overall Results:
Corporate psychopathy is something we encounter on a daily basis, every insurance payment we make, or bottle of Coke we buy, is steeped in psychopathic behaviour by the corporations that run said companies. Be it treating people like animals, conning consumers, threatening eco systems, refusing freedom of information, the list goes on.
If you do run into a psychopath, yes it will definitley have an affect on your life, but he chances of running into a dangerous psychopathic killer are actually quite low in comparison to the corporate psychopathy.
Both are dangerous, but obviously the size of the danger is relevant here, where singular psychopaths might affect 1% of the overall population, Corporations reach nearly 100% of the population.

Mr Burns...

To put into into another pop culture reference:

Mr Burns owns the only nuclear power plant in Springfield. He is an extremely wealthy old man (his net worth being $1,800,037,022 as stated in the episode 'The Burns and the Bees') with immense power, mainly due to his wealth. While he has more money than all the Simpsons characters put together, he still cuts corners in the power plant in order to save money. He is both immensely greedy and stingy simultaneously. He cares neither about the power he is supplying, or the people he is supplying it to. He hires incompetent employees (sorry Homer). his family life is suspicious in that he apparently had 9 siblings all due to be heirs to his families fortune, but all of which died under suspicious circumstances, leaving him the only heir to the Burns fortune.

Burns himself personifies Corporate America, with an unquenchable desire to increase his own wealth and power. He has no care for any of his workers, portrayed in the fact that he never remembers their names and is also wholly unconcerned for their safety and well-being as the power plant has obvious and serious safety violations that are never dealt with. He trusts nobody, and constantly keeps watch over his employees, spending most of the day in his giant office doing just that.

He has also appeared as quite fragile at points too, which is suggestive of old age, but what if he puts it on to make people think he's losing his mind? By making himself appear more human with forgetfulness and moments of fragility it makes people think he is simply an old man, with no actual power. However, he uses this against people in order to gain as much control and money as possible.

He is greedy, egotistical and dreams only of more power, and success, while also hoping for the failure of rival companies. He is, like most corporations, the most dangerous of all psychopaths.


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