Loaded Subjects

Loaded Subjects

Loaded Subjects

Loaded Subjects

Synopsis

Responding to the trauma of the current global financial crisis, this book brings together an eclectic group of psychoanalysts, philosophers, cultural theorists and historians to debate the links between psychology, money and economic crashes. It issues a double challenge - to economists who define economic behaviour as necessarily rational and self-interested, while relegating other models of monetary thought to psychopathology; and to psychoanalysts who find it hard to confront the economics of their own profession as a business, while neuroticising and biologising any economic behaviour that exceeds their own unspoken yardstick of 'commonsensical' financial self-interest.

Contributors to this book investigate issues as diverse as: the century-old divorce between psychological and economic explanations of human behaviour and current efforts to repair it; the gender-politics, ethics and psychology of economists' attempts to explain today's rolling crisis in money markets; psychoanalytic theories of financial investment, risk and the 'jouissance' of devastating loss; the rise and cataclysmic fall of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme; the squandering of fortunes on rubbishy art in times of financial crisis; the attraction of Deleuzian speculation versus Freudian investment; the nexus between political economy and libidinal economy; the mystifying effects of treating 'the market' as a subject capable of 'speaking', 'reacting' and 'punishing'; and the fate of desire in postmodern, hyper-commoditised culture.

Excerpt

Homo oeconomicus vs homo psychologicus
A critique of pure reason in
economics and psychoanalysis

David Bennett

In 1975, when the us economy was in the grip of stagflation, New York magazine published the findings of a psychological study of the sex-lives of thirty Wall Street brokers and investors, in which the researchers showed that when the Dow Jones industrial average went up, so did their subjects’ sex-drives (as measured by orgasmic frequency), and when the market fell, so did libido on Wall Street, sending brokers and investors in droves to their psychotherapists’ couches, complaining of a welter of sexual dysfunctions. the finding, of course, confirmed a traditional conceit of psychoanalytic literature, which has always invested heavily in the exchange-value of libido, its symbolic equivalence with money, tying compulsive saving to anality and spending to genitality. If the 1975 study has any predictive plausibility, psychoanalysts today must be making a killing from the 20082012 financial crash, the world’s most acute financial crisis since the Great Depression, and one can only suppose that the traders and investors who are paying the analysts’ fees believe they are making a sound investment in rebuilding their libidinal economies. As for the bankers at the core of the crash, what can one say to them, except: Congratulations! Now that you’ve been reassured that capitalism is indeed communism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor (as Martin Luther King reputedly put it) and that the tax-payer will pick up the tab for even your most reckless gambling debts, your libidos must be popping!

Since the time of Adam Smith and David Hume, economic theory has been predicated on a model of homo oeconomicus as a rational, individualistic, self-interested, autonomous calculator of cost-for-benefit. This presumed rationality of ‘economic man’ has supposedly guaranteed, in turn, the fundamental rationality of the ‘self-regulating’, ‘efficient’ market. Classical political economy, neoclassical economics and neoliberalism have all . . .

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