Against Economic (Mis)Conceptions of the Individual: Constructing Financial Agency in the Credit Crisis

Culture and Organization, Forthcoming

24 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2011

See all articles by John D. Roberts

John D. Roberts

University of Sydney Business School

Wilson Ng

IDRAC Business School, Campus de Lyon

Date Written: October 2, 2011

Abstract

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

Roberts, John D. and Ng, Wilson, Against Economic (Mis)Conceptions of the Individual: Constructing Financial Agency in the Credit Crisis (October 2, 2011). Culture and Organization, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1949481

John D. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Sydney Business School ( email )

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Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Wilson Ng

IDRAC Business School, Campus de Lyon ( email )

47, Rue du Sergent Michel Berthet
Lyon, 69009
France
+447557098046 (Phone)
+6042292437 (Fax)

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