Commentary on the Film Documentary "The Corporation"


Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.


The Corporation is an award-winning documentary that uses extensive file footage and interviews with a number of well-known commentators and "experts" to evaluate the moral and social behaviors of the corporate world. The documentary uses a highly selected set of examples of corporate misbehaviors, as well as a brief clip of a longer interview with me, to make and bolster its position that the corporation meets the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy. As a promotional release for the documentary put it: "Diagnosis: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a psychopath." However, the diagnostic criteria described in the documentary, and referred to as a "Personality Diagnostic Checklist," were not provided by me. Instead, they consisted of three items from the ICD-10 criteria for dissocial personality disorder, and three from the DSM-IV criteria for antisocial personality disorder. The way things are presented in the documentary, it appears that it was I who, on the basis of this mixed six-item list, had diagnosed corporations as psychopathic. But, as anyone familiar with my work can attest, I would not equate these particular criteria with the clinical construct of psychopathy, nor would I proffer a diagnosis of psychopathy without careful evaluation of all the documented evidence. Parenthetically, I hold a Ph.D. in psychology, not an M.D.


The short excerpt from the interview did not convey my view that although the attitudes, philosophies, and behaviors of a given corporation (as a legal entity) might be considered psychopathic, at least as an academic exercise, such a "diagnosis" hardly would apply to corporations in general. To refer to the corporation (i.e., all corporations) as psychopathic because of the behaviors of a carefully selected group is like using the traits and behaviors of the most serious high-risk criminals to conclude that the criminal (i.e., every criminal) is a psychopath. Most criminals are not psychopathic, according to PCL-R criteria. If the PCL-R, its derivative, the PCL:SV, or the B-Scan were to be applied to a random set of corporations, most would not qualify for a diagnosis of psychopathy.


I think that the program would have provided a better service had it pointed out that some corporations (or at least some of its key members) might be seen as psychopathic, and that, like psychopaths in society, are capable of doing social damage far out of proportion to their numbers. Society then could attempt to deal with their problematic and antisocial behaviors, without tarring all corporations with the same diagnostic brush.


Finally, the political slant of the documentary certainly is not consistent with my personal or professional opinions of the corporate world.


January 28, 2004