J. G. Ballard, in the more recent novels, I think made a living out of a kind of rather virulent reactionary politics: the recurrent thought seems to be that there is no political solution to the problem of violence, that any attempt to solve that problem simply displaces and even excerbates it. The plots take place against a backdrop of vaguely leftist concerns, it's true - the gated communities of a moneyed leisure class - but what is crucial is not that that shapes the members of that class: it rather liberates them, allows them to do what they've always (really: it's the really that gives it away) wanted to, which is experience the visceral thrill of exercising brutal, sadistic power. The insistence that humans are fallen, cannot but revert to bloody type is doubly obssessed with violence; both in that it insists that violence is inevitable, as if peaceful societies have never existed, and in its own self-image, as able to bear truths others dare not face, engaged in a kind of masochistic proof of its strength. As with Houellebecq, there must be a suspicion that there's an explanation in Ballard's personal history: a childhood in the cantonment in Shanghai and an internment camp must mark you in certain ways. What they don't do, as Ballard seems to think judging by his autobiography, is function as adequate models for what societies are generally like: contrary to what all kinds of saloon bar philosophers may think, people aren't really like what they're like under great stress; the whole point of being under great stress is that it's not how you normally are.
Not everyone is a psychopath, whatever Ballard may say: that's how we're able, in the end, to distinguish psychopaths from everyone else. Saying so might even border on the psychopathic itself: if the total failure of empathy is definitional of psychopathy, then an inability to see the motivations of others as other than brute data, as having a lived history which give them content and meaning, could be a kind of psychopathy. There's a kind of liberal piety which plays into this, though, where everything good is morally costless, where political conflict gets erased, and so generates the temptation to bring it back, bubbling up through the gaps all orders must leave somewhere. Regretting, as Obama's appointment to head to C.I.A. does here (via), that a majority of a given public do not believe in a absolutely exceptionless prohibition on torture, totally setting aside any questions about what tradeoffs you are prepared to make, does that. It invites the machismo of ticking bomb cases, when what you want is this (via), notes on the economy of torture, of its politics: thinking that the prohibition exists in a vacuum allows that exceptions to it might to, when our reasons for the prohibition are importantly to do with the fact that torture does not happen in a vacuum; it needs torturers, equipment, places and times for the equipment to be used, information that it confirms and that verifies it, and so on. I suppose then it is that kind of pious liberal that Ballard thought of himself educating in Cocaine Nights and Super-Cannes, who thinks of goodness without a (real) history, as just how people are. Notice, though, that his posturing suffers from exactly the same flaw: it is stripped of its institutional context. People aren't usually evil because that's the way they're doomed to be; they're terrible because they ended up that way. Even Hobbes saw that; Ballard can't.