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Corporation – legal personality with psychopath’s traits

A company is…

“…only a juristic figment of the imagination, lacking both a body to be kicked and a soul to be damned.” (Walton J.)

“There are psychopathic personalities in the highest echelons of government, and even within religious hierarchies in America. You can t just assume that a person with the title judge or hospital orderly got there honestly and won t manipulate the hell out of you.”

–Personal communication from Psychologist Schreibman to H. Cleckley, 2/10/86

Documentary The Corporation (2003) by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott is must see movie about origns of Corporation as Legal entity, its development till today and its influence on our life. The interesting question behind is: what is the connection between structure which corporation has set up and current social structure? Does corporation which has every legal right as human being, but lack of soul and emotions, produces pathological employees or at least pathological top managers which represent it? The most evident trait of psychopaths is lack of empathy and emotions  (what  surly corporation as legal but not alive personality misses). In corporate culture the one with lack of emotions survives the best. I know this well from my more than 10 years work in corporation.

There are several theories about Psychopathologyfrom mental disorder to just adoption strategy. With social structure as we have is it than psychopath’s adoption strategy the most efficient one? Is this the way how evolution allow survivorto the most adopted organisms? Are the people with empathy and social consciousness extinction species?

The movie is based on Joel Bakan’s book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

“Provoking, witty, stylish and sweepingly informative, THE CORPORATION explores the nature and spectacular rise of the dominant institution of our time. Part film and part movement, The Corporation is transforming audiences and dazzling critics withits insightful and compelling analysis. Taking its status as a legal “person” to the logical conclusion, the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist’s couch to ask “What kind of person is it?” The Corporation includes interviews with 40 corporate insiders and critics- including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva and Michael Moore – plus true confessions, case studies and strategies for change.”

Noam Chomsky has criticized the legal decisions that led to the creation of the modern corporation: 

“This fine book was virtually begging to be written. With lucidity and verve, expert knowledge and incisive analysis, Joel Bakanunveils the history and the character of a devilish instrument that has been created and is nurtured by powerful modern states. They have endowed their creature with the rights of persons — and by now, rights far exceeding persons of flesh and blood — but a person that is pathological by nature and by law, and systematically crushes democracy, freedom, rights, and the natural human instincts on which a decent life and even human survival depends: the modern corporation. This incisive study should be read carefully, and pondered. And it should be a stimulus to constructive action — not at all beyond our means, as the author outlines.”

Corporations, which previously had been considered artificial entities with no rights, were accorded all the rights of persons, and far more, since they are “immortal persons”, and “persons” of extraordinary wealth and power. Furthermore, they were no longer bound to the specific purposes designated by State charter, but could act as they choose, with few constraints.

In 1819, the U.S. Supreme Court granted corporations a plethora of rights they had not previously recognized or enjoyed. Corporate charters were deemed “inviolable,” and not subject to arbitrary amendment or abolition by state governments. The Corporation as a whole was labeled an “artificial person,” possessing both individuality and immortality.

England enshrined into law the preeminent hallmark of modern corporate law – the concept of limited liability. Acting in response to increasing pressure from newly emerging capital interests, Parliament passed the Limited Liability Act of 1855, which established the principle that any corporation could enjoy limited legal liability on both contract and tort claims simply by registering as a “limited” company with the appropriate government agency.[16]

Unresolved issues

The nature of the corporation continues to evolve in response to new situations as existing corporations promote new ideas and structures, the courts respond, and governments issue new regulations. A question of long standing is that of diffused responsibility. For example, if a corporation is found liable for a death, how should culpability and punishment for it be allocated among shareholders, directors, management and staff, and the corporation itself? See corporate liability, and specifically, corporate manslaughter.

The law differs among jurisdictions, and is in a state of flux. Some argue that shareholders should be ultimately responsible in such circumstances, forcing them to consider issues other than profit when investing, but a corporation may have millions of small shareholders who know nothing about its business activities. Moreover, traders — especially hedge funds — may turn over shares in corporations many times a day.[25]The issue of corporate repeat offenders (see H. Glasbeak, “Wealth by Stealth: Corporate Crime, Corporate Law, and the Perversion of Democracy” (Between the Lines Press: Toronto 2002) raises the question of the so-called “death penalty for corporations

The Corporation (full lenght movie)

Psychopathy May Be An Adaptation, Not A Disorder

We think evolution designed a subgroup of humans to use aggression and deception to get resources from others. In theory, such people ought to have: skill at deception, lack of concern for the suffering of others, willingness to use violence, ease and flexibility in the exploitation of others, lack of concern for the opinion of others, and extreme reluctance to be responsible for others (including, for males, their own offspring).

Males of this subgroup would also engage in lots of uncommitted sex. These are all psychopathic traits. The point is that psychopathy is not a disorder because psychopaths (and their psychological characteristics) are doing exactly as they were designed by natural selection. According to this view, psychopathy is an adaptation.

The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is a diagnostic tool used to rate a person’s psychopathic or antisocial tendencies. People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get with they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.

The Power Paradox

Perhaps more unsettling is the wealthof evidence that having power makes people more likely to act like sociopaths. High-power individuals are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, and to fail to look at others who are speaking. They are also more likely to tease friends and colleagues in hostile, humiliating fashion. Surveys of organizations find that most rude behaviors—shouting, profanities, bald critiques—emanate from the offices and cubicles of individuals in positions of power. My own research has found that people with power tend to behave like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbitofrontal lobes (the region of the frontal lobes right behind the eye sockets), a condition that seems to cause overly impulsive and insensitive behavior. Thus the experience of power might be thought of as having someone open up your skull and take out that part of your brain so critical to empathy and socially-appropriate behavior.

Power may induce more harmful forms of aggression as well. In the famed Stanford Prison Experiment, psychologist Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned Stanford undergraduates to act as prison guards or prisoners—an extreme kind of power relation. The prison guards quickly descended into the purest forms of power abuse, psychologically torturing their peers, the prisoners. Similarly, anthropologists have found that cultures where rape is prevalent and accepted tend to be cultures with deeply entrenched beliefs in the supremacy of men over women.

This leaves us with a power paradox. Power is given to those individuals, groups, or nations who advance the interests of the greater good in socially-intelligent fashion. Yet unfortunately, having power renders many individuals as impulsive and poorly attuned to others as your garden variety frontal lobe patient, making them prone to act abusively and lose the esteem of their peers. What people want from leaders—social intelligence—is what is damaged by the experience of power

Psychopathy is a psychological construct that describes chronic immoral and antisocial behavior.[1]The term is often used interchangeably with sociopathy[2]. Psychopathy has been the most studied of any personality disorder. Today the term can legitimately be used in two ways. One is in the legal sense, “psychopathic personality disorder” under the Mental Health Act 1983 of the UK. The other use is as a severe form of the antisocial or dissocial personality disorder as exclusively defined by the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R).[3]The term “psychopathy” is often confused with psychotic disorders. It is estimated that approximately one percent of the general population are psychopaths. They are overrepresented in prison systems, politics, law enforcement agencies, law firms, and in the media.[4][5][6]

The psychopath is definedby a continual seeking of psychological gratification in criminal, sexual, or aggressive impulses and the inability to learn from past mistakes. It is frequently co-morbid with other psychological disorders (particularly narcissistic personality disorder). The psychopath differs slightly from the sociopath, and even more so from an individual with antisocial personality disorder. Nevertheless, the three are frequently used interchangeably. While nearly all psychopaths have antisocial personality disorder, only some individuals with antisocial personality disorder are psychopaths. Many psychologists believe that psychopathy falls on a spectrum of disorders ranging from narcissistic personality disorder on the low end, malignant narcissismin the middle, and psychopathy on the high end. An almost all-pervasive misconception is that psychopaths are doomed to a life of violence and crime. It is possible for psychopaths to become successful in many lines of work, while many also become lazy underachievers. Psychopathy is frequently mistaken with other similar personality disorders, such as dissocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and schizoid personality disorder (as well as others).

“A lot of white-collar criminals are psychopaths,” says Bob Hare. “But they flourish because the characteristics that define the disorder are actually valued. When they get caught, what happens? A slap on the wrist, a six-month ban from trading, and don’t give us the $100 million back. I’ve always looked at white-collar crime as being as bad or worse than some of the physically violent crimes that are committed.”


June 26, 2008 Posted by | Documentary, Politics, psychology, Science | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments