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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Capitalist Greed: A Socioanalytic Perspective

Do we not see economists leaving out of account unconscious greed?' It seems that this question, which Donald W. Winnicott and his colleagues asked some 25 years ago, has not lost relevance today. While economists still broadly emphasize self-interest as a driving force and rarely discuss the impact of greed, socioanalysts are increasingly interested in it. Taking Melanie Klein's earlier work on greed as a starting-point, I offer the notion of 'capitalist greed' and the attempt to elaborate some of the unconscious dynamics in the capitalist realm of economy and finance. I see greed as a psychotic dynamic that inhibits thinking, and limits reality to what is bearable and desired. Greed is neither a phenomenon that began with the onset of capitalism nor the decisive cause of the current crisis, but it is inherent in the former and became most apparent in the latter. Subsequently, I will elaborate how competition is often fueled by excessive greed that seeks to damage or even annihilate competitors, and is the source of corruption and fraud. The mere pursuit of maximizing profit, fostered and legitimized by economics for almost half a century, has had a major impact on the prevalence of greed in our contemporary economy and the financial service industry in particular. In concluding, I will offer some thoughts on how the psychotic dynamic inherent in capitalist greed and the psychotic thinking concomitant with it could be brought more into balance with non-psychotic thinking, i.e. how regeneration can be considered in a world gone mad with greed.