“Forged in the crucible of totalitarianism, Political Ponerology: The Science of Evil, Psychopathy, and the Origins of Totalitarianism, [was developed] by psychiatrist Dr. Andrew M. Lobaczewski, who [drew] on his experience and clinical insight during the decades he spent under the crushing heel of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Decades ahead of its time, and brimming with unique insights and depth of vision, Political Ponerology explores a genus of highly adapted and charming psychopaths who bend political parties, institutions, and media to their depraved worldview, dividing and hypnotizing entire populations, and paving a virtuous path to genocide, mass repression, and gulags. From the darkness of past regimes, Political Ponerology brings you the keys to understanding and protecting yourself from today’s spellbinding ideologues, and tomorrow’s dictators.”  [Book Description]

Lobaczewski’s argument clarifies the dynamics of political systems that do not properly serve the communities they ostensibly represent. He describes the origin of what he calls macrosocial evil, which tends to come about when sociopaths, under various political systems, take charge of governance and create pathocracies. “Ponerogenic processes” are those pertaining to evil and, ultimately, can result in violently oppressive governance. Joseph Heller described one aspect of this ponerogenic process in his book, Catch-22:

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”

“In ponerogenic processes, [notes Lobaczewski] moral deficiencies, intellectual failings, and pathological factors intersect in a time-space causative network to give rise to individual and national suffering.”

We see this ponerogenic process at work today in Ukraine, Russia, and the United States. The half-truths and lies that Lobaczewski defines as paralogical,[i] meaning they have the appearance but not the substance of logic and reason have become endemic in almost all societies.


Sean J. O’Reilly is an award-winning author and editor who lives in Virginia. An outlier academic, he has a degree in Existential Phenomenology from the University of Dallas