Analysand and Analyst in the Global Economy, or Why Anyone in Their Right Mind Would Pay for an Analysis

By Fink, Bruce | New Formations, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Analysand and Analyst in the Global Economy, or Why Anyone in Their Right Mind Would Pay for an Analysis


Fink, Bruce, New Formations


Abstract Use value, exchange value, the equation between time and money, and globalisation are explored in conjunction with the psychoanalytic concepts of loss and castration, leading to the paradoxical notion that, in psychoanalytic treatment, one pays to lose something. The unique configuration of work and payment in the psychoanalytic situation is explored through several clinical vignettes.

Keywords psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, money, loss, neurosis, jouissance

According to Lacan, Pascal invented game theory with the notion that the ante staked in a game of chance must be viewed as lost from the moment one agrees to play.1 Whatever amount one agrees to gamble should be considered a pure loss. Hence the advice sometimes given to gamblers not to bring more money with them to the casino than they are comfortable losing, given how likely it is that they will lose all of it. This well-meaning advice is obviously futile in the age of ATMs and credit cards, as anyone on a losing streak can easily obtain more money to wager.

Rather than openly declare buying and selling on the stock market as tantamount to gambling - an arena in which one should not wager more money than one is comfortable losing - politicians and financial advisers have increasingly dissimulated the gambling aspect of the stock market behind the notion of 'investing'. They have touted the idea that conservative investing over the long term can bring in a decent, fairly consistent percentage - not as nice as Bernie Madoff 's too-good-to-be-true, consistently positive returns,2 naturally, but better than those achievable virtually anywhere else, whether in a savings account, a certificate of deposit or government bonds.

As company pensions have been progressively eliminated in the United States and putting away money for retirement has increasingly become an individual endeavour even in France, the speculative nature of the stock market has been downplayed and the notion of conservative long-term investing trumpeted far and wide. Such tactics are necessary if politicians are to make people forget about soon-to-be bankrupt Social Security administrations, where their retirement income was to be doled out by the benevolent state, and rely instead on personal efforts to secure financial solvency beyond their working years. Diversification has been advertised as the cure-all for stock-market gyrations; and governments, in concert with financial advisers of all ilks, have attempted to convince the public that the market can be mastered through careful, conservative, diversified investments in raw materials, health care, technology, and, yes, even banks - investments diat might well be hedged to offset risk using puts, calls, straddles, strangles, diree-way collars and the like.

According to some, the boom-and-bust business cycles Marx exposed as endemic to capitalism in the nineteenth century have been tamed and contained. BusinessWeek, a well-known US financial magazine, spent much of the last decade announcing the advent of what its authors referred to as die 'New Economy', by which they meant an economic system immune to serious downturns and crashes.

All ofthat has turned to dust in the past few years, but the Pascalian truth diat one should begin one's investing with the notion that whatever one stakes should be viewed as always already lost has been one-upped or raised to the second (or even higher) power by the widespread use of leverage in financial instruments. Ever more exchange-traded funds (ETFs), available like ordinary stocks on the NYSE Euronext, offer double or even triple the gains made by various asset categories or market indexes, not to mention double- or triplesized losses. When investors purchase such funds on margin - that is, with borrowed money based on the purported value of their other paper assets, as so many have done over the past fifteen years - they can very easily lose more than they anted up.

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