Magazine article In These Times

This Is Your Brain on Neoliberalism

Magazine article In These Times

This Is Your Brain on Neoliberalism

Article excerpt

In Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain (Springer), political scientist Gary Olson explores how we humans, who are "wired for empathy," can find our empathetic natures short-circuited by the culture we live in.

Justly celebrated feminist Gloria Steinern called empathy "the most radical of human emotions." By my reading this quote properly extends the popular metaphor about empathy as "putting oneself in another's shoes and grasping what they're feeling" to encompass a constructive pro-social response to this moral emotion, a response that might well provoke resistance. Why? Because if ordinary citizens took empathy more seriously, the consequences might well be radical and include demands for structural changes. ...

The higher one looks up the corporate ladder, the more likely one is to find psychopaths. Their skill sets, particularly manipulative abilities and emotional detachment from decisions, contribute to their success.

The primary characteristics of psychopaths include the inability to genuinely empathize with others and a lack of compassion. [Robert] Hare writes that "Psychopaths are social predators and like all predators they are looking for feeding grounds. Whenever you get power, prestige and money you will find them." ...

An enhanced sense of security correlates with being sensitive to others' needs and a willingness to engage in prosocial responsive behavior. ... A study on the negative consequences of neoliberal economic policy in Latin America concluded that an empathie orientation may be crowded out when people are preoccupied with personal needs, insecure and fearful about tomorrow. …

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