The Psychopath Factory

The Psychopath Factory: How Capitalism Organises Empathy. Adams, Tristam (2016) Repeater Books

I just finished this and it deserves a quick review, mainly so I can collect an achievement point.

The book has two main ingredients. On the one hand, there is interesting and well-informed discussion of the ways that late-capitalist work organises empathy, manages it in the right amounts, switches it on and off at the right time. On the other hand, there’s considerable discussion of psychopathy as a condition defined by the absence of empathy. This latter aspect is much less interesting because it goes on at some length without really going anywhere and there is too much reliance on fictional accounts of psychopaths and also on Robert Hare, who is a moron and should be taken seriously by nobody. He is like the Donald Trump of psychology.

Anyway. The parts about capitalism are good and considering it is a short book, it is well referenced. As I was reading I made purchases of several other books, particularly:

  • everything by Franco Berardi, an Italian Marxist.
  • Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism by Eva Ilouz (2007)
  • 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary (2013)
  • Dialectic of Enlightenment by Adorno & Horkheimer, first published 1944

Favourite quotes:

The unknowability of empathy, in contradistinction to observable social behaviour, haunts the question of the psychopath. We could say that anxiety about psychopathy is anxiety about empathy. The impossibility of truly determining empathy in others provides some ground for contemporary culture’s fascination with the different degrees of social psychopathy.

Like an adult entertainment film star, if the employee fails to perform enjoyment of the role – if they do not cultivate a convincing impression of enjoyment, of having fun and some emotional investment – then the job is not done. The job is, at a certain level, performing enjoyment, not the job itself.

The psychopath is not, like the schizophrenic or the psychotic, a failed script, a subject outside of the social or working code, but an example of capitalist code itself.

By this latter remark, Adams means that the psychopath successfully feigns empathy; controls and manages its display; never becomes too genuinely, authentically engaged in a way that would break the capitalist machine.

I managed to use some of these insights in a small project I was working on, so that paid for the books. 1 Books point.

the-psychopath-factory

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