Against Economic (Mis)Conceptions of the Individual: Constructing Financial Agency in the Credit Crisis
Culture and Organization, Forthcoming
24 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 2, 2011
This paper draws upon the work of Lacan and Callon to interrogate and disrupt the foundational belief of neo classical economics in the rationality and autonomy of the individual. Lacan’s account of the ego’s foundation in the ‘imaginary’ explains how the self may be grasped as if it were indeed autonomous and rational, but also what is ‘fictional’ about this image. Following Lacan, the credit crisis is explored in terms of the narcissism, paranoia and contempt for the law that in practice characterised the conduct of what economics celebrates as the rational individual. The paper then draws upon Callon’s notion of performativity to explore the ways in which economics, and in particular its assumptions about incentives, came to make a reality of the fiction of the ‘rational’ individual. We suggest that widely adopted incentive pay practices, designed in line with agency assumptions, produced the very self interested opportunism that they assumed ex ante.
Keywords: Credit Crisis, Agency Theory, Lacan, Callon, Narcissism, Paranoia, Performativity
JEL Classification: A12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation