• Adam Kotsko discusses his new book today at 57th Street Books

A recent survey of 500 financial executives in the U.S. and UK yielded results that will probably shock no one. Twenty-four percent of the senior execs reported they may have to engage in unethical or illegal activity in order to succeed, and only 41 percent said that their staff had “definitely not” engaged in such activity. Sixteen percent said that they would commit insider trading if they knew they could get away with it. This kind of behavior has pissed off plenty of people, as the Occupy movement proves, but more importantly, it’s affected our TV schedule. A certain trope has become extremely popular on the small screen: the sociopath.

In his book Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television, Adam Kotsko argues that audiences are obsessed with the man with no scruples, emotions, or human ties to prevent him from ruthlessly pursuing his goals. These sociopaths range from relatively innocent, like Eric Cartman (South Park), to charming, like suave Don Draper (Mad Men), to out-and-out vicious, like reality TV show contestants. As Kotsko eloquently puts it:

“The sociopaths we watch on TV allow us to indulge in a kind of thought experiment, based on the question: ‘What if I really and truly did not give a fuck about anyone?’ And the answer they provide? ‘Then I would be powerful and free.'”