Beneath the Surface of the Financial Industry: Prolegomena to a socioanalysis of the present global financial crisis*

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Title: Beneath the Surface of the Financial Industry: Prolegomena to a socioanalysis of the present global financial crisis*
Year: 2009
Authors: Sievers, B.

National governments, enterprises, organizations and individuals face a despairing future, as the financial crisis expands increasingly into a global economic one. Although the present crisis was predicted by many for more than a decade, most experts, government officials and investors seem not to have foreseen it or to understand the various causes, much less the cures. There is quite some evidence that the developments that led to the contemporary world wide financial crisis have much of the 'characteristics' of what Bollas (1987) has termed the 'unthought known'.

There have been quite some efforts to explain, in retrospect, the various underlying causes of the present disaster. Any attempt at understanding the crisis from a socioanalytic perspective, however, should presumably go beyond the obvious 'facts and figures' to develop hypotheses about the various unconscious dynamics that contributed to the present escalation. Any adequate socioanalytic analysis of this crisis and its underlying dynamics would be more than one scholar could cope with ' not least because organizations, and not the global economy, have been the primary object of this new discipline. It is thus the intent of the author to elaborate different existing socioanalytic approaches to an understanding of global finances. In this sense, this paper aims not at a comprehensive socioanalysis but attempts to offer possible directions for thinking about what broadly appears to be unthinkable and unknown so far. The paper thus will offer prolegomena to a socioanalysis of the crisis, i.e. it attempts to state a preface for a venture at understanding.

The financial world and the recent financial services revolution created a whole variety of previously unknown financial products and strategies, a kind of terra incognita for socioanalysis. There have been, however, some contributions that have thrown some light on the unconscious dynamics of this 'world'. (e.g. Chapman 2003; Eisold 2004; Gabriel 2006; Hirschhorn 1999; Levine 2005; Long 2008; Schwartz 1990a/b; Shaw 2005; Sievers 2003; H. Stein 2007; M. Stein 2008). Based on these and other contributions, this paper starts by elaborating the similarities and differences between these various approaches and examining their contribution to a socioanalysis of the financial crisis. From this summary of existing socioanalytic literature, the author will attempt to formulate a set of broader questions worth exploring and offer further hypotheses for understanding some of the unconscious dynamics of the present financial crisis.

These prolegomena will conclude with the point that any attempt to adequately understand the present financial crisis and its implications for (financial and economic) institutions/organizations, actors and customers would remain incomplete without a more thorough analysis of the irrationality and (normal) madness characteristic of capitalism at large. The faith in rationality in economic and financial theory (and practice) has been proven to be broadly wrong. This opens up a vast field for further psycho-/socioanalytic studies of unconscious dynamics that result from our collective, broadly irrational belief systems, our fundamental inability to understand the world and the madness that results from our hatred of thinking and the (hidden or explicit) desire for not-knowing.

One intention of this paper is to invite and encourage like-minded colleagues, scholars/researchers and practitioners to enter into unknown territory, for a journey into the 'Heart of Darkness' (Conrad 1899/1995) by further exploring and elucidating, from a socioanalytic perspective, the impact that the world of money and capital has on our lives and thinking in organizations and beyond ' and thus ultimately on our collective future.

Keywords: Financial Industry, Prolegomena, socioanalysis, global financial crisis
Language: English

Date: 6/22/2009
Location: Toledo, Spain
Name of Event/Conference: 26th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations
Sponsoring Organization: ISPSO

Submitted by:
Elizabeth Novograatz

Corresponding author:

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