Demands for Empathy

[an attack on the call for empathy in the Occupy movement]

Further, the demand for empathy might undo the material basis of the movement’s protests against massive inequality. And yet one might also give the sign credit for a more mischievous canniness, about finance, politics, and empathy alike. Far from the naïve call for palliative fellow-feeling, for the corporate citizen condescending to stoop to imagine my place as his, her, or its own, the sign’s demand may register precisely the impossibility of such recognition: such empathy does not belong to the corporate world.


For the mere act of asking for it reveals the inhuman autism of the corporate “person” and mocks the idea that any such empathy might ever take meaningful or material form. The demand for this empathy includes the demand for economic justice that would make empathy meaningful. Until then, there can be no empathy: it doesn’t belong in this theater.

By Martin Harries