The Psychopath Factory: How Capitalism Organises Empathy examines how the requirements, stimuli, affects and environments of work condition our empathy.
In some cases work calls for no empathy – characters who don’t blink or flinch in the face of danger nor crack under pressure. In other cases capitalism requires empathy in spades – charming, friendly, sensitive and listening managers, customer service agents and carers. When workers are required to either ignore their empathy to do a job, or dial it up to increase productivity, they are entering a psychopathic modality. The affective blitz of work, flickering screens, emotive content, vibrating alerts and sounding alarms erode our sensitivities whilst we are modulated with attention stimulants, social lubricants and so called anti-anxiety drugs. This is amidst a virulent and exacerbating climate of competition and frenzied quantification. Capitalism pressures us to feign empathy and leverage social relationships on one hand, whilst being cold and pragmatic on the other. We are passionate and enthusiastic whilst keeping a professional distance.
Sympathy, care, compassion and altruism are important; The Psychopath Factory: How Capitalism Organises Empathy argues that it is a mistake to presuppose that empathy can achieve these. Rather than being subject to the late capitalist organisation of our empathy, psychopathy could be a means of escape.
Tristam Vivian Adams is a theorist, writer and PhD candidate at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
“Adams draws on both clinical psychology and pop culture to show us the inner contradictions in the concept of the psychopaths — and of the capitalist system that at once produces and abhors psychopathic personality traits.”
“A wonderful spark, critiquing capitalist society from the refreshingly new perspective of psychopathology. It will surely awaken many future debates around pathology, performativity, and where to locate failure within the capitalist system.”