Political Ponerology

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See more information on this seminal book at the blog. You can download - the PDF at [[1]]

This book is noteworthy in that it documents the scientific studies conducted by the author and many others in the aftermath of WWII during the Stalinist regime in Poland – on the nature of the evil and terror that has just left its mark on history in the tragedies of WWII. The book is important because the underlying dynamics are not specific to WWII, but are general human features that need to be understood because of their profound, often undetected, effects on society. The author produced hard evidence regarding the nature of this evil. His conclusions on the underlying psychosis are sobering. This book is not for the fainthearted, but it is an honest analysis on the self-selection and rise to power of forces in society that lack a critical component – a working conscience. This author is also absolutely optimistic – in that he provides clues of how society could develop immunity to the macrosocial phenomena addressed. Thus, it is also a survival guide for those daring to question the world. As stated in the preface, “…this book is the most important book you will ever read. Unless, of course, you are a psychopath.”


  • With great respect for the shortcomings of our human reason, let us consciously take the middle road and use the abstraction process, first describing selected phenomena, then the causative chains characteristic for ponerogenic processes. p. 144 [2]
  • (not from this book but related) Incest happens to 10% of children - an epidemic proportion - according to US data - [3]. Myth: Most incest stories are not true. They are actually fantasies derived from the child’s own sexual yearnings. Reality: This myth was created by Sigmund Freud and has permeated psychiatric teaching and practice since the begin­ning of the century. In his psychoanalytic practice, Freud was getting so many reports of incest from the daughters of re­spected, middle-class Viennese families that he groundlessly decided they couldn’t all be true. To explain their frequency, he concluded that the events occurred primarily in his pa­tients’ imaginations. The legacy of Freud’s error is that thou­sands, perhaps millions, of incest victims have been, and in some cases continue to be, denied the validation and support they need, even when they are able to muster the courage to seek professional help. Correction - looks like incest is more like 20% [4]
  • Proper rearing and self-rearing thus always aims at deegotizing a young person or adult, thereby opening the door for his mind and character to develop. [146] ...exceptional people exist whose personality is very well integrated even though they are almost totally devoid of egotism; this allows them to understand others very easily...The kind of excessive egotism which hampers the development of human values and leads to misjudgment and terrorizing of others well deserves the title “king of human faults”. - Lobaczewski
  • If we analyze the development of excessively egotistical personalities, we often find some non-pathological causes, such as having been raised in a constricted and overly routine environment or by persons less intelligent than the child. However, the main reason for the development of an overly egotistical personality in a normal person is contamination, through psychological induction, by excessively egotistical or hysterical persons who, themselves, developed this characteristic under the influence of various pathological causes.
  • Pathological egotism derives from repressing from one’s field of consciousness any objectionable, self-critical associations referring to one’s own nature or normality.
  • Moralizing interpretation: The tendency to impart a moralizing interpretation upon essentially pathological phenomena is an aspect of human nature whose discernable substratum is encoded in our specific instinct; namely humans normally fail to differentiate between moral and biological evil. p. 148. ...If we analyze the reasons why some people frequently overuse such emotionally-loaded interpretations, often indignantly rejecting a more correct interpretation, we shall of course also discover pathological factors acting within them. Ie, moralizing is pathological, and we should be aware the moralizer may have pathologies that need to be addressed. We should also consider that the doctrines themselves are pathological.
  • Paramoralisms: The conviction that moral values exist and that some actions violate moral rules is so common and ancient a phenomenon that it seems to have some substratum at man’s instinctive endowment level.
  • Definition: pathocracy (n). A system of government created by a small pathological minority that takes control over a society of normal people

Other Sources

  • Sott.net has a bunch of articles on Ponerology - type the word in the search box. Such as this article [5] at Sott.net, which has a low score on Mediabiasfactcheck.com, so keep that in mind as you read this. Mentions Robert Hare as the world's leading student of psychopathy, who coauthored Snakes in Suits. The same article has an interesting linguistic insight: Simon Barren-Cohen and he's written a book, I think it's called Zero Degrees of Empathy. And his idea is that what we've called evil, and he doesn't like the word evil, is basically a lack of empathy, which I agree with.
  • Same source as above - B-Scan - for psychopaths in a business. - Harrison: Well there are several researchers whose specialty is in psychopathy. The problem that I've seen is that their approach is pretty narrow. They went to grad school and thought, ok what am I going to do, well this sounds interesting, or maybe their prof studied psychopathy, and so they get into it and then they just follow the protocols, they go to prisons, they find the psychopaths that are in the prisons and do the PCLR on them, that's the psychopathy checklist, that's the standard diagnostic tool for criminal psychopathy. Then they get them in the lab and they do little tests here and there and they get some good research and some good results, but they don't seem to see the big picture, as far as I'm concerned. They see the significance in terms of crime, but a lot of them don't even get into the issues of successful psychopathy. These are the type of psychopaths that are on Wall Street for example. You brought up Bernie Madoff which is a great example. So there's a smaller subset of these academics, these real scientists and researchers that do get into this area, so that's a smaller subset. So Robert Hare, who Laura Knight-Jadczyk mentioned in the segments you were playing before we started talking, he and his college Paul Babiak, they wrote the book Snakes in Suits, and that's about psychopaths in the work place, psychopaths in a corporate environment. So they developed what they called the B-scan, the business scan. It's a diagnostic tool for identifying psychopathy in the work place. So it's something that corporations or business can use when they hire people, to try to screen out psychopaths. So it is starting to go in that direction, unfortunately that's the only place I'm aware of that it's being used in some businesses, but it is a start.
  • Same source - However, the seemingly upstanding citizens in our corporate board rooms, and the humble clerks in our retails stores bilk us out of between 40 and 200 billion dollars a year, as opposed to the 4 billion from just the street crime. I thought that was an interesting statistic, as you've pointed out as well, there are many levels of psychopathy.
  • when you keep all that in your mind and you just think about the amount of suffering and carnage and warfare and murder and torture that goes on, and you think of the futility of all of the attempts to change it, and then when you realise the problem, when you realise the causal chains that are set, that lead to these behaviours, then you start to see that a solution is possible, and that change isn't impossible, and that hope for humanity is really what I think drives this book and makes it so important, because it is something that hasn't been available, it is knowledge that has never been so scientifically, so methodically set out, exactly how these processors happen - ibid
  • "every well-meaning group or organisation that becomes large enough to become a sizable impact on society will become infiltrated and undermined by psychopaths in 5 to 10 years." He says, "the only way to keep any organisation on its original path is to somehow identify all psychopaths and prohibit their admittance to the group." - ibid
  • And again you find this in corporations and business and politics. If you just look at the history of politics, you read about everything that goes on behind the scenes with all these political manoeuvrings, they're classic psychopathic manoeuvres, they're the effect of what Lobaczewski calls ponerization of the groups and the whole process put together is ponerogenesis - ibid


  • http://www.systemsthinker.com/interests/ponerology/
  • Amazon reviews - [This book is not a particularly easy read. But I have bought several copies, and when I lend them out I tend to not get them back. The author's research helps to explain the dark side of who goes into politics, why, and what kinds of results you get. Since this man's research was done many years ago, much more has been done and written about regarding psychopathy. For an easier read, try Snakes In Suits or The Psychopath Next Door. For another view, read The Authoritarians. But this book is a classic and should be read by anyone wanting to understand how our corporations or political systems can take a wrong turn.]
  • Another Amazon reviewer - [Its information would make a case for a constitutional amendment requiring mandatory testing for psychopathic traits with restrictions prohibiting them from all public office, positions of trust and much of public employment...or contractors...if it's not already too late.]

Email to Reviewer

Hi Howard, I have ready your review of Political Ponerology and posted it here -  https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Political_Ponerology I read the critical Amazon reviews and don't know what to make of them. The editor of the book is certainly a questionable person. When reading the book, my main impression was that the author promised hard data on the facts, but at the end, the reader was left with less than promised. I excused it at the time as the data was lost as Lobaczewski was persecuted and manuscripts burned, so he could only mention his best recollection of the real data. While the real data may be lost, the general message is profound. Namely - as far as I recall - Lobaczewski the 4% undetected psychopathy rate of the population came from Lobaczewski. Do you have any further insights that indicate the book is not authentic? Have you ever found any other translations of the book other than that by the Red Pill Press? I looked at the Wikipedia comments, and Stanislaw Lem, father of a friend, appears to be a credible source vouching for the importance or relevance of the book, with which I clearly agree. I'd like to find more information on this, as referring to a controversial editor and publisher appears to detract from the authority of the book. In my opinion, this is clearly one of the most important books that one will ever read about how society works, and I wanted to contribute to the further development of the subject matter..  Marcin --

Response, May 31, 2020


Which critical Amazon reviews are you referring to specifically?

I personally just tried to stick to the part of the book written by Lobaczewski and remain very aware that the additions and commentary by who I think you're referring to as the editor were not part of his original work. If the story is true of Lobaczewski's struggles to get the book out to the world on his own, then they did a service by at least getting his work to us. At the same time, instead of just putting out what he said and letting it speak for itself, they added certain thoughts. I just tried to be very conscious that those extra thoughts were not to be taken as part of Lobazczewski's own views.

I don't know about the harder data and exactly what Lobaczewski had before supposedly losing it.

The important thing is that this book lays out a framework and a hypothesis and we don't have to rely solely on its own claims. The reason I became interested in promoting ponerology as a field is that it goes well beyond Lobaczewski and this book. There are many researchers working on the science behind psychopathy, Cluster B personality disorders, the effect of people with those disorders in various types of systems and so on. So we are amassing more and more data from their work that we can use to assess our view of Lobaczewski's hypotheses and ideas. I write more about that on my page on ponerology as a whole ( http://www.systemsthinker.com/interests/ponerology/ ) and I started http://www.ponerologynews.com and its associated social media to document, among other things, the work of these researchers.

I haven't found any other translations, though I haven't really looked for them. And I have no more information about the background than you probably do. For all those reasons, it's important that people not just read this book, but then immerse themselves in the work of others in the fields related to it that provide further support and insight to the ideas Lobaczewski synthesized.

Thanks for getting in touch and let me know if you'd like to talk more about any of this.

Interview with Lobaczewski

  • There is no society where psychopaths do not exist 38:00
  • Histeroidal cycle peaked in 1980 in USA. Turn of century in Europe.
  • 38:36 - we have no knowledge of biological or hereditary nature of psychopathy
  • Barely enough knowledge in macrosocial, very little on personal scale. We are ignorant.
  • Medical treatment of brain lesions - that is one possible route, but we know little about it. Dangerous territory.

MJ Comments

One practical consideration for me is that society would benefit from psychological testing of politicians and CEOs. This is naturally highly controversial, but it appears to be a natural prerequisite for public service. If someone is to serve others, is it not rational for the public to be guaranteed that the individual has the capacity to govern effectively? People do background checks for work. It appears that psychological health should be added to the background check - and not according to industry-standard metrics of psychological competence - but those standards augmented with insights from Lobaczewski's book.

The assumption for the above is that it is possible to create an adequate protocol for testing. Clearly there is no test available today. But it would be useful if effort was made to create such a test, which is simply part of the due diligence done prior to giving any individual a significant amount of responsibility.


  • 4.5 star reviews on Amazon - [6]

Current Events

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