Sociopathic Society: A People's Sociology of the United States
a book by Charles Derber
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that Charles Derber introduces and vividly explains the idea of a sociopathic society and why the idea has become necessary to understand today's world. Sociopathic society is rooted in governments and economies, not psychiatry. The book offers a new sociology of societies organized around antisocial values, which ultimately lead to societal and planetary self-destruction. Most of the sociopathic behaviors are perfectly legal and are perpetrated by governments, financial institutions, and corporate capitalism.
Focusing on the United States, Derber connects the dots of Wall Street meltdown, guns and murder, uninhibited greed, the 1% and the 99%, a new crisis of unemployable surplus people, Hurricane Sandy and global warming, cheating scandals, and more including the war on democracy itself. Although the book brings together a breathtaking set of stories of a system run wild, it also offers hope, showing pathways for confronting and avoiding the many ways a society can commit sociocide.
“Charles Derber is one of our most astute and eloquent social critics. His political analysis is persuasive and is enlivened by graceful prose.”—Howard Zinn
"In this lucid and informed study, Charles Derber breaks through the necessary illusions and shows how the United States is being turned into a 'sociopathic society,' with control concentrated among intertwined economic, political, and military elites and reflections of its sociopathy rippling through every social stratum. But he also shows that there remains real hope that mass mobilization by currently fragmented social movements can reverse the sociopathic impetus."—from the Foreword by Noam Chomsky
If the elite's shaking down of the non-elites goes too far, there will be little money left to rob from them and they will create bankruptcy, misery, and a failed culture, not prosperity, success, and an affluent society
Sociopathic Society: A People's Sociology of the United States exposes the failure of economics to recognize the impossibility of sustaining a market society at the expense of the welfare and wellbeing of society. Where will the consumers be if the system smacks them down so they're lucky to come up with the money for heat, light, beans, bread, and rent or mortgage payments? The elites need to realize that when their greed gets to the hysterical level and their shaking down of the non-elites goes too far, there will be little money left to rob from the poor or middle class and they will create bankruptcy, misery, and a failed culture, not prosperity, success, and an affluent society. Instead of a successful culture, they'll have discovered the magic formula for washing our nation right down the drain. This is how seriously greed blinds the oligarchs, and this is the cliff the 1% are pushing the 99% toward.
The elites have discovered the magic formula for washing our nation right down the drain—this is how seriously greed blinds the oligarchs
This world-over-the-cliff scenario is how seriously greed blinds the oligarchs, and this is the cliff the 1% are pushing the 99% toward
The United States is no longer a manufacturing economy but it and many other countries manufacture a huge surplus population of people that are unsustainable. The earth cannot support such a food gobbling, energy-using, waste-producing swarm for long. If the elites fail to face this crisis and confront the contradictions of capitalism, they'll almost inevitably go down the path toward a more repressive corporatocracy or an even darker theocratic autocracy, so we are like the Middle East's theocracies. Unfortunately, a great many of the fundamentalists in the USA would support this wholeheartedly. Is the worsening oligarchy the market-obsessed neoliberals' flashy new recipe for despotism? Is the advent of feudalism just around the corner? Derber warns that a greedy empire grounded in unrestrained competition, militarism, and consumption, with little concern for preservation of the commons, may be doomed. Our neocons' imperial militaristic ambitions coincide with the quest for worldwide economic domination that will start WWIII sooner rather than later.
The United States is no longer a manufacturing economy but it and many other countries manufacture a huge surplus population of people that are unsustainable
The United States and many other countries manufacture a huge surplus population of people that unsustainably eat up resources like a ginormous swarm of locusts
The U.S. income gap between rich and poor went from bad to horrible, but the elites merely laugh—all the way to the bank. It's not just that the New Deal regulations were undermined so we'd get lots of financial crises in which there is more wealth transfer from the 99% to the 1%. It's also that democracy is being undermined purposely by the likes of Trump and the Kochs.
The U.S. income gap between rich and poor went from bad to horrible, but the elites merely laugh—all the way to the bank
Elites merely laugh—all the way to the bank—as democracy, freedom, rights, and our futures are shredded; it's not THEIR problem!
As the culture commits sociocide, the citizens complain but the results of such things as the Occupy Wall Street protest was exactly nothing. The media propaganda pretended that it was merely a media non-event put on by troublemakers, and it meant nothing. We all know better. And yet the media which is supposed to serve the citizens' interests served only elite interests. Propaganda ruled the day. See Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda.
Wall Street Protest: Occupy Wall Street—Copyright © 2011 by Louis Lanzano
What changed after the heartfelt, sincere Occupy Wall Street protests where we were telling the powers-that-be that their transference of wealth from the 99% to the 1% was getting sickeningly unfair? Nothing. Who listened? Only others of us 99%ers. Not a single 1%er even bothered to glance in the protesters direction. Nevertheless, Derber says the majority of our citizens have progressive values (Hillary won by 3 million votes) and they need to be a force that works with other forces like Occupy Wall Street protesters. Democracy will vanish unless we snatch it from the jaws of elite corruption.
'You know, Archibald, my bladder is a tad too full—do these windows open? I'd like to send my regards to those pesky OWS protesters'
As Derber sees it, "the absense of the vocabulary and critique we need [as tools to re-empower our democracy or even get it functioning marginally] reflects the power of the established elites to control discourse and mask the sociopathic DNA of our corporate society. . . . Part IV examines the sociopathy of a foreign policy aiming for global hegemony. Part VI looks at the ultimate sociopathic system, fascism, which could return in new forms. I discuss new values among the majority of Americans and animating US social movements that could save us from looming sociopathic disaster."
Derber sees the society already socially unraveling, with citizens worried about WMDs, climate change, and the next financial meltdown. The public interest group Public Record wrote that "the economic elite have launched an attack on the US public and society is unraveling at an increasing rate."
The economic elite have launched an attack on the US public and society is unraveling at an increasing rate
The theme crops up everywhere. Conservatives such as David Brooks and liberals such as Robert Reich write about the unraveling of the US social fabric. Brooks writes that:
"In the half-century between 1962 and the present . . . the social fabric has deteriorated. Social trust has plummeted. Society has segmented... . The American social fabric is now so depleted that even if manufacturing jobs miraculously came back we still would not be producing enough stable, skilled workers to fill them. It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies."
The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.
Reich’s book Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it argues that offshoring and outsourcing are the real big business in America, leaving Americans without jobs or wages that keep society alive. Arianna Huffington in Third World America writes that the United States is degrading into the misery and chaos of the world’s impoverished failed states. Nobel economist Paul Krugman simply proclaims, “Banana Republic, here we come.”
"All of this suggests that the United States is crossing a threshold toward a sociopathic society.
A sociopathic society breeds routinized, institutionalized pervasive and fierce sociopathy that chips away at its own foundations."
The problem here is not a rotten apple—such as Enron or its corporate accountant, Arthur Anderson—but a rotten barrel
"The problem here is not a rotten apple—such as Enron or its corporate accountant, Arthur Anderson—but a rotten barrel. The media portrayed Enron as a rotten apple spoiled by bad leaders. Bakan’s point, though, is that Enron was acting as the corporate system requires, much like the other leading financial firms, as became evident in the Wall Street meltdown of 2008. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan Chase, Countrywide, Washington Mutual, and AIG—all programmed to maximize short-term profit—carried out unethical, destructive behavior, whether predatory loans or issuing toxic financial instruments that they secretly bet would fail. The problem is not a few bad leaders but a corporate DNA placing profits over people and chartered by a larger sociopathic economic system (the barrel).
"The idea of sociopathic society requires some distinctions and nuances. First, we need to distinguish the We: of sociopathic behavior. Physical violence, such as murder or rape, is one terrible form that individuals commit (and institutions such as sweatshops or the military often sanction), particularly prevalent in the United States, with violent crime rates, especially with guns, far higher here than in other advanced societies. But there are more prevalent nonviolent sociopathic personal acts, part of the fabric of daily life in the United States, almost all perfectly legal, such as cheating on tests . . ."
Nobel economist Paul Krugman simply proclaims, 'Banana Republic, here we come.'
Let's look at our news media—a perfect example of not just polarization, infotainment, divisiveness, propaganda, and censorship but also sociopathy. They are on broadcast and cable, in print and on the internet. They are mostly divided between liberal and conservative, depending on who the owners are and what their politics are. Fox News puts out the conservative stuff and arrogantly pronounces a lot of content from the mainstream media to be liberal nonsense, a.k.a. fake news. The mainstream media does often lean left liberal and it tends to ridicule Fox News as Trump's fake news headquarters, or rightwing nonsense, a.k.a. fake news. When left and right pundits appear on news programs, neither side listens to a word the other side is hollering. No one learns anything. The conflict is simply sensationalistic infotainment
Google tracks everything you do. Online behavioral tracking refers to the practice of tracking web users (and mobile apps users) on the Internet. Browsing histories, email interactions and website visitors' behaviors are tracked, collected and storaged for marketing and advertising purposes. This helps them send you ads you will be interested in so everyone makes more money. Facebook—the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans—prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal, you can expect to see only progressive links. Even an old-media bastion like The Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing.
Compare the amount of info available to the amount YOU get to see—do you really want Big Brother censors deciding what you should see and what should be hidden from you??!!
In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs—and because these filters are invisible, we won't know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas. Forget the Internet broadening your knowledge, your positions, your beliefs. Instead, it will cast them in cement. The Internet will feel like "been there, done that." See The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think.
Considering the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which was seriously distorted by fake news and Russian interference, one begins to see the importance of filtered news to our society. See Fake News: How Propaganda Influenced the 2016 Election, A Historical Comparison to 1930's Germany.
Fake news helped elect Trump, and now it is a weapon in his war on the mainstream media
Some of the forces outside the mainstream media report more honestly than those controlled by the corporatocracy. If we ever lose our alternative media websites and publishers, all is lost and fascistic stormtroopers will be goosestepping their way to our door. And, unfortunately, in 2016, the world seems to be LOSING sophistication, wisdom, and intelligence, not gaining it. So fake news rules the day. See The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote, Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics and Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era.
Personalization undermines the Internet's original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated, echoing world
As if all of the above was not bad enough, in the past year, Google has started censoring the news under the guise of eliminating fake news. They have thousands of monitors, people who were hired to dump anything they see as fake news or conspiracy theory. And yet anyone with a pulse realizes that we live in a polarized society wherein half the people lean right and half lean left, and Google's people are drawn from this pool of polarized citizens. Since Google censors are polarized, if they were allowed to mark for death all things they felt are fake, eventually all political opinions on the internet would disappear.
Studies have shown that U.S. citizens are terrible at recognizing fake news when they see it. Since 80% of people cannot tell real from fake, this means most of the work of Google censors will have been destructive, reflecting on the politics and beliefs of the censor, not on the realness of the content, so thousands of legitimate content pages will have gotten the ax for no reason except the fact that Google is so naive that they actually thought fake content could reliably be detected by censors even though studies have proven just the opposite. See Editorial: Google's Threat to Democracy Hits AlterNet Hard.
Okay now—back to mainstream news. It gets worse. Not just Google censors but CIA censors are censoring it. But only mainstream news. Alternate news sites are censored by Google only while mainstream news sites are censored by CIA censors only. The mainstream news outlets have been censored, believe it or not, for the last century! See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion and prepare to upchuck!
Once you see that we do not have a free press and you've been reading censored content in the mainstream news and the U.S. has more propaganda than any other country, you may just blow chunks
Sociopathic Society: A People's Sociology of the United States is an insightful book about sociopathic society, sociopathic capitalism, sociopathic American Dream, sociopathic foreign policy, sociopathic climate change denialism, sociopathic politics and fascism, as well as alternatives: better values, better systems and activism. There is, however, very little attention to media, propaganda, censorship, and mind control in this book. For that, see:
- Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (CBC Massey Lecture)
- Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion
- Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness
- Media Sexploitation
- The Engineering of Consent
- The Propaganda Project
- How the World Works
- Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda
- Propaganda and the Public Mind
Controlling the public mind is needed to get the sheep voting against their own interests so the elites' greedy, exploitative plans can be effected; here they've employed the thought police (think 1984)
“In my book, Sociopathic Society: A People's Sociology of the United States, I argue that the intense and frightening way of sociopathic behavior is being carried out by large scale corporations, which are fundamentally sociopathic in their DNA, their charter and the larger market and political economy in which they operate," says Derber.
He goes on: “The sociopathic behavior is not a reflection of brain chemistry gone awry but of the triumph of a sociopathic system of institutions and elites who have rewritten social norms, rewritten the law, reconfigured the institutional power arena in such an extreme way that they have created a society in which the dominant norms of behavior require sociopathic conduct for survival.”
“Most of my more recent works have focused on what we the people need to do and have the ability to do,” Derber says. “We must restructure the political economy, the legal system. We must return the corporation to a public corporation, created by we the people, accountable to we the people. We created this sociopathic monster. And we have been living with it for the last 100 years. Of course we can change it. It’s a human construction.” And there you have it—we humans designed the political economy, the legal system, and the laws of the corporation. We can look around and see the terrific mess we are making of the political realm, the environment, and most of what comprises the corporate realm, and we can get off our butts and RE-design these things from being anti-human survival to pro-human survival. Or we can put our heads in the sand until our lives look like this:
We can put our heads in the sand until our lives look . . .
Like global-warming hell