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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Money as Signifier. A Lacanian Insight into the Monetary Order

MONEY HAS RARELY BEEN considered as worthy of study by psychologists, perhaps because it seems to be a matter first and foremost for economists and financiers (Furnham & Argyle, 1998). The small number of (mostly psychoanalytically-oriented) clinicians who have dealt directly with the subject have usually confined their investigations to the importance that pecuniary questions are capable of taking on in neurotic processes (Fenichel, 1947; Borneman, 1978; Goldberg & Lewis, 1978; Matthews, 1991; Reiss-Schimmel, 1993) or, correlatively, psycho- analytical treatments, where not only payment as such but also the specific form it takes are considered to be part of the analysis' framework. According to this principle then, 'hard cash' is particularly apt to serve as an object of transference (College de psychanalystes, 1986, 1988). For my part, as an organizational consultant influenced by analytical thought, I would like to go beyond the clinical and psychopathological perspective and try to use psychoanalytic theory, especially the Lacanian conception of the Symbolic, to throw light on money's social dimension. In particular, I shall attempt to show that phenomena, such as inflation, stock market crises, counterfeiting or the dematerialization of means of payment, that affect the role and place of currency in human interactions do not threaten our cultural system in the same way. In fact, these various structural or conjunctural phenomena weaken (to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the case) two quite distinct levels of money's symbolic function: namely, money's functioning as a sign and its functioning as a signifier. Although it is far more common for the first of these two signifying functions to be singled out in the case of money, it seems to me, for reasons that I shall go on to elaborate in the pages that follow, that the second function - money as signifier - might well prove to be more crucial for human beings from a societal, or even anthropological, standpoint (Sagna, 2001). Free Associations (2003) Volume 10 Part 1 (No. 53): 25-43