PSYCHOPATHS AND THE MANAGERIAL CLASS
HOW HOMOLOGY IN MODUS OPERANDI RISKS PATHOCRATIC CAPTURE
Homology refers to a correspondence between two entities that share a common structure. What I’m arguing for here is a homology between the modus operandi of the current ruling managerial class and the manipulative, verbally fluent psychopath, which leaves the former – particularly the surplus elites of the ruling class – constantly vulnerable to pathocratic capture.
The concept of pathocracy has been elaborated in an earlier post – those unfamiliar with that concept are suggested to learn about it, here. Additionally, no effort is made here to defend or support my claims about the ruling, managerial class. That has been done at length in my book, The Managerial Class on Trial. Those interested in evidence and elaboration of the claims made in this post should look there.
Briefly, over the last century and a half, Marx’s bourgeois ruling class has been displace in the West by a new, managerial ruling class. The latter remain very much a class in Marx’s sense, having a distinct relation to the mode of production. Like any other ruling class, they perpetuate an ideological superstructure that sustains their hegemony. What is unique about this managerial class, though, is that – being composed of symbol manipulators – they are uniquely verbally fluent and capable of psychological manipulation.
Going back to Marx himself, as he was a member of this class, these symbol manipulators have been remarkably adept at rendering themselves and their class interests invisible to any but the most persistent and clear-eyed analyst. They have accomplished this by hiding their class interests behind the interests of some other class or social group, leveraging the latter’s grievances against the social order on their own behalf. The managerial class accomplished this by way of a kind of class masquerade: using their clever verbal fluency to insert their values and interests into a rhetoric that masquerades as the demands of the aggrieved class. Communism, fascism, and Nazism were all different strategies, modeled to the conditions of the country in question, by which this was done. This rhetorical leveraging of the aggrieved classes’ interests, through their verbal fluency, I have characterized as the managerial class’s political ventriloquism. This rhetorical inhabiting of the aggrieved classes allowed the managerial class, in its various national incarnations, to mobilize the ranks of the more populous classes in the name of an ideology which was always inevitably the expression of the agenda of some faction of the managerial class.
Once this ventriloquist practice of the managerial class is understood, its homology with the modus operandi of the so-called successful, manipulative psychopath, already referenced, becomes tellingly evident. Again, this topic is more fully fleshed out in the prior post, here. The key emphasis for purposes of the present discussion is that the popular imagination tends to associate psychopaths with those subjects of the diagnosis who have low impulse control, so are prone to high levels of violence and other crimes, and thus often spend large parts of their lives in prison. In fact, though, there is another, much more chameleon-like breed of psychopath. This chameleon characterization was provided by Babiak and Hare, in their study of psychopaths in business: “Like chameleons, psychopaths can hide who they really are and mask their true intentions from their victims for extended periods.” These are psychopaths very much in control of their impulses and who have been revealed as extremely manipulative and verbally fluent.
Babiak and Hare distinguish in this regard between what they label the aggressive and the manipulative psychopath. The latter are described as such: “The Manipulative profile consisted of those with a high score on all but the antisocial factor. They manipulate, deceive, and charm, but are less antisocial than are those in the previous [aggressive] profile. They are more talk-oriented than action-oriented.” And in another passage, worth citing at length, they provide the following answer to the question of whether psychopaths are more psychologically or verbally skillful than the rest of us?
Our point is that several abilities—skills, actually—make it difficult to see psychopaths for who they are. First, they have a talent for “reading people” and for sizing them up quickly. They identify a person’s likes and dislikes, motives, needs, weak spots, and vulnerabilities. They know how to play on our emotions. We all have “buttons” that can be pushed, and psychopaths, more than most people, are always ready to push them... Second, many psychopaths have excellent oral communication skills. They can jump right into a conversation without the social inhibitions that hamper most people. They make use of the fact that the content of a message is less important than its delivery. A confident, aggressive delivery style—larded with jargon, clichés, and flowery phrases—makes up for the lack of substance and sincerity in their interactions with others. This skill, coupled with the belief that they deserve whatever they can take, allows psychopaths to use effectively what they learn about a person against the person as they interact with him or her—they know what to say and how to say it to exert influence. Third, they are masters of managing the impressions of others; their insight into the psyche of others combined with a superficial—but convincing—verbal fluency allows them to change their personas skillfully as it suits the situation and their game plan. They have an ability to don many masks, change “who they are” depending upon the person with whom they are interacting, and make themselves appear likable to their intended victim.
At this point, the similarities between the modus operandi of the successful psychopath and the managerial class should be evident. Both manipulate the impressions and expectations of others for their own purposes through their generally higher level of verbal fluency. While successful psychopaths are most likely to land in the ranks of the managerial class, this is not to suggest that the managerial class is characteristically psychopathic. Psychopaths, even the successful ones, are characterized by a deficit in empathy or conscience. This is why, when they gain too much power, they unleash the kinds of pathocracies that have resulted in the world’s more egregious atrocities. It is highly likely that psychopaths are well overrepresented within the managerial class – though they would still be a minority of that class.
What’s being emphasized here is not an identify in membership, but a homology in modus operandi. Both the managerial class and the manipulative psychopath exploit their verbal fluency to weave linguistic illusions that disarm, confuse, and misdirect their linguistic target.Both use their linguistic illusion to manipulate their target to act in ways that benefit their own interests, and simultaneously conceal such ulterior interests and motives. As the invasive psychopath is replicating the modus operandi of the managerial class, any member of that class who recognizes the manipulative strategy of the psychopath may see nothing more than a member of their own class engaging in the standard practices of their class.
Furthermore, this homology of modus operandi illustrates that the manipulative psychopath actually finds a welcoming home within managerial class ideology production. The psychopath is adept at the skills for success in this field, and his gifts are enthusiastically welcomed. Where, in other areas of life the manipulative psychopath’s dispositions put him in danger of exposure by the class peers he seeks to deceive, with potentially devastating consequences, once he enters the field of managerial class ideology production, he has arrived home: a fish in water – comfortable, effective, and appreciated. Nowhere is the so-called successful psychopath more successful than in ideology production for the managerial class.
So, the managerial class – and particularly as an agent of that class’s ideology production (whatever the specific brand of ideology: e.g., communism, fascism, Nazism, managerial liberalism) – is the ideal breeding grounds for the success of the manipulative psychopaths. Furthermore, due to the homology in modus operandi, this ideal breeding ground likewise provides almost invincible camouflage for the pathocratic operations of the psychopath, who can engage in his manipulations right under the nose of a managerial class that considers such linguistic strategy as simply business as usual in pursuit of its class interests.
This situation though poses a serious dilemma for the clinically normal members of the managerial class – particularly those members of Turchin’s surplus elite, who aspire to lead a class coup against the regime of the ruling faction of their class.Even on those occasions when they might see beyond the camouflage provided the psychopath by their homologous modus operandi, the psychopath’s unrestrained ruthlessness can be wielded as a valuable weapon in the cause of overthrowing the sclerotic regime.
This benefit, though, can come at a steep price for those clinically normal members of the managerial class coup. This topic will be explored further in the next posting to this substack.
As I’m not claiming that the managerial class is inherently psychopathic, some might object that the commonality in modus operandi is merely analogous, not homologous. However, I consider there to be a common source to each: the exploitable nuance in the human evolved capacity for communication through symbolic manipulation. I’ve addressed how this trait evolved in Not for the Common Good: Evolution and Human Communications. (Potential readers are forewarned that this is both a highly specialist work and, as it was my first self-published book, it’s formatting isn’t up the standard of my more recent efforts. But it is readable, and makes an important argument, even if there are details which I’ve revise in any future edition.)
The shared modus operandi would put both categories of individuals under the rubric of what Machiavelli called foxes, or that, in the Italian political realist school, Pareto identified as Class I elites. For more on the Italian realism school, see here.
Babiak and Hare, for instance, found that many companies positively emphasized psychopathic traits in their hiring strategies.
[In this comment I will be using various labels such as "Trotskyist", "Marxist", "Liberal", "reactionary", etc. Unless explicitly stated otherwise I use them for their denotation, not moral connotation]
Burnham started out as a Trotskyist. Although he later converted out of it and became one of the leading anti-Liberal intellectuals, it seems to me that the analytical tools he learnt as young stayed with him. And that's why he uses the term "class" when describing the elites that emerged around the turn of the last century. Where the "managerial class" extends the Marxist class taxonomy.
I like better a different approach, though. That which for lack of a better word can be described as the "caste" taxonomy. The one that is being popularized by the neo-reactionaries starting with Moldbug.
Not going into too much detail (and one does need to go into detail in order to really understand what they are talking about; please let me know if you are familiar with neo-reactionary thought) the society can be roughly divided into warriors, priests, merchants, laborers, career criminals, and untouchables (that last "caste" corresponds to Marxist lumpenproletariat.) Those castes are divided into sub-castes that are different in important respects (e.g. a general, a sergeant, and a policeman are all warriors; a Google principal engineer getting $1M a year and a janitor getting $15 an hour are both laborers, etc.)
Every stable society has warriors and priests on top as the governing and "surplus" elites. [According to this approach, by the way, Marx was wrong - the bourgeoisie merchants per se were never in charge, it was either the priests (e.g. the Dutch) or the warriors (e.g. Prussians) ruling on their behalf.] Priests are absolutely necessary to create and support the myths and the morals for the society to cohere and cooperate. Warriors (aka "stationary bandits") are necessary to protect the society from the "roving bandits" - see Mancur Olson.
Under this taxonomy the West is currently ruled by Priests (Harvard-types, lawyers of a certain kind, journalists, technocratic bureaucrats, etc.) - what you after Burnham call "the managerial class".
It may seem that the difference in approaches is just semantic, but let me argue that it goes deeper than that. According to Burnham's approach the managerial class is a relatively recent phenomenon, which makes it harder to make proper analogies and learn from history. According to the caste approach the managerial class is a modern manifestation of the priestly caste, something that existed for the whole of recorded history and can be analyzed and predicted based on that history.
Another important difference is that according to Marx class determines the class consciousness and interests. Thus a capitalist is a capitalist is a capitalist no matter whether he is Russian or American, in power or in the opposition, etc. Ditto a member of the managerial class.
According to the caste approach a Catholic prelate and a Harvard Progressive are both priests, but they espouse very different myths and morals, which lead to very different societies. Analogously, in- and out-of-power elites might be all members of the managerial class, but as priests they are very different, and their rule might lead to very different outcomes.