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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Your Money or Your Life? Psychotic Implications of the Pension Fund System: Towards a Socio-Analysis of the Financial Services

The present Anglo-American pension funds system is based on totally different images of man, society, and social relatedness than the traditional social security systems and retirement schemes characteristic of welfare states in many European countries. This article is guided by the working hypothesis that the pension fund system, because of its inherent defenses against persecutory and depressive anxieties, is based on psychotic dynamics. Participation in the pension fund system encourages a psychotic dynamic; the expected pension after retirement is seen to protect one from a 'miserable' way of life, from deprivation, from annihilation and feelings of dependency, gratitude, love, and guilt. As people increasingly strive for an affluent retirement, commoditized money nurtures the illusion that the more money one accumulates the more certain death will be kept away. It further will be argued that the psychotic dynamic inherent in the pension funds system is not limited to those who invest in the funds, but further finds an expression or 'resonance' in the organizations that manage the funds and their respective role holders. Money paid into a pension scheme serves in addition to its 'pecuniary' function as a 'conductor' of psychotic anxieties. As a consequence, pension funds have become the main players in a kind of global marshalling yard where underlying anxieties are transferred and shifted in various ways. Loaded with their customers' expectations and anxieties about adequate pensions after retirement, pension fund organizations tend to maintain and spread a globalized collusion of psychotic thinking.