“Whether you know it or not, each and every day your life is touched by the effects of psychopathy on our world. You are about to learn that even if there isn’t much we can do about geological and cosmological catastrophe, there is a lot we can do about social and Macrosocial evil, and the very first thing to do is to learn about it. In the case of psychopathy and its effects on our world, what you don’t know definitely can and will hurt you.” (p. 9, Political Ponerology)
One thing I like about teaching at a University is that I am exposed to a lot of new ideas. Also I am not one who has to agree with everything a person says, to appreciate the good ideas he/she has. With that thought, I would like to introduce you to an interesting idea. The idea is Political Ponerology, as described in a book by that name by Dr. Andrew M. Lobaczewski, edited by Laura Knight-Jadczyk. Political Ponerology is “a science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes.”
Personally I wish the science of evil had a more appealing English name. The word, Ponerology, to me sounds too much like a combination of two words used for a male body part. It also reminds me of another word Eudaimonism. Both words stand for very important concepts but need to be changed so that we have an easier time talking about the material in public. So just what are the ideas in Political Ponerology and why do I think you should read the book yourself?
The author, Dr. Lobaczewski, is an old and wise man who lived much of his life behind the Iron Curtain. In that life, he came to understand that the evil in this world is caused by psychopaths, who he says number 3-6% of the population. The book is largely about the methods psychopaths use to infiltrate organizations and corrupt non-psychopaths. Dr. Lobaczewski also addresses the very important questions of what we should do about the psychopaths among us, and how we can have less evil in our world. His answers may surprise you.
It makes sense to me that psychopaths who have political aspirations all use similar tactics to achieve and maintain power. We all know that those who commit love fraud use essentially the same tactics, so why would political psychopaths be any different? Just like we can learn to identify love fraud by observing tactics, we can learn to detect political psychopaths by observing and understanding their tactics.
Since psychopaths are primarily motivated by power and dominance, it makes sense they would be drawn to politics. Furthermore, since they enjoy harming others, it also makes sense they would be very dangerous as leaders. There is a very large social psychology literature on the psychological effects of power. This literature suggests that having power produces behavior that we also associate with psychopathy, such as impulsivity, positive mood, reduced empathy and verbosity. I would like to see this social psychology literature reconciled with the psychopathy literature, perhaps those studying Political Ponerology will do that.
The issue of just how much of our social problems result from psychopathy in our leaders surely deserves further exploration. The group that brings us this important book, deserves our thanks. I have the honor of corresponding with the editor, Laura, she worked very hard to get the manuscript which was originally written in Polish, translated and understandable. The group she is part of, is planning a follow up book that will be less technical, and an easier read.
Those of us who have lived with a sociopath/psychopath, know how dangerous they are, and how persuasive they can be. We have been the victims of their misuse of interpersonal power. We should all support efforts to uncover the operations of psychopaths in politics. We should also look to elect leaders who have clear track records that indicate the presence of empathy, personal stability, and conscience.