Recently a NYTimes article announced that narcissism is being deleted from the tomb for psychiatric disorders. Narcissism will not appear in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (due out in 2013, and known as DSM-5). What happens when what was once morally objectionable behaviour ( egotism, vanity, conceit, selfishness) is no longer a ‘legitimate’ social deviance? Is narcissism now so deeply embedded in the collective psyche that it is now ‘normal’? Is this the ultimate end of the neo-liberal exhalation of the individual, celebrity culture, a century’s worth of advertising and the corporatisation of everyday life?
Psychologist Erick Fromm said that just because ‘millions of people share in the same form of mental pathology it does not make those people sane’. Yet when the standards of morally acceptable behavior in a society change what is recognized as both ‘sanity’ and ‘pathology’ changes with it. What is ‘insane’ a few decades ago can become normalized and seem sane to contemporary people.
In the book and movie ‘The Corporation’ Joel Bakan argues that corporations exhibit the traits of those clinically defined as psychopaths. Psychopaths may be more dangerous than narcissists, yet both are indicative of a basic trend towards callous individualism at the expense of others, self-absorption, deceitfulness and inability to experience guilt. As a social phenomenon they create cultures of elitism and disregard for the well-being of others. Certainly this is type of mentality is a disaster for the environment.In a world controlled by corporations; where our media reflects its values, our politics reflect its interests and many of us must work for corporations and must fall into line or be fired – large scale shifts in collective values systems will almost ‘naturally’ occur if they are not actively resisted. This shift in values towards those that are dominant in corporate culture should concern us all, as the consequences of living in this illusionary pseudo reality are devasting for people and planet.