Towards a psychoanalytic theory of financial corruption

PhD thesis

Orakwue, S. 2017. Towards a psychoanalytic theory of financial corruption. PhD thesis Middlesex University Science and Technology
TypePhD thesis
TitleTowards a psychoanalytic theory of financial corruption
AuthorsOrakwue, S.

Freud maintained that psychoanalysis was not only to be a clinical discourse of the interpersonal and the subjective, however dynamic and necessary therapeutically, but that its principles could be taken from those contexts and applied to wider global, societal, and cultural issues. Since the 1960s, financial corruption has grown into what has become a serious and entrenched problem, albeit this is seldom addressed in psychoanalytic terms. The ultimate aim of this research study is to enquire into the psychoanalytic roots of financial corruption and to ask whether it is possible to attempt a psychoanalytic investigation and explanation of acts of financial corruption committed in particular given circumstances, such as those existing in a developing, emerging, or transitional society, more precisely in the historical period of 1960s Africa. To address this, particular attention will be paid to writings pertaining to Nigeria in its period of decolonisation, when the issue of financial corruption began gain international attention. However, a series of initial steps are necessary in order to approach these issues.
In the line of argumentation that this thesis will follow, two main aspects of financial corruption will be examined in depth: firstly, ‘money’, in its multi-layered significance and secondly, the internal desires of the individual with respect to ‘money’ and the external social environment within which this individual is located. Thus, first of all this dissertation will begin by asking two interrelated questions. What has been a psychoanalytic theory on ‘money’? And how did psychoanalysis determine the role that ‘money’ played in the unconscious? The first three chapters of the thesis are devoted to answering these and following a survey of the field, return to pre-World War Two classical psychoanalytic theoretical writings, the correspondence of pioneering psychoanalysts and Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary, in order to arrive at a starting point for a further examination of psychoanalysis and financial corruption. Centrally, the status of the ‘anal theory of money’, derived from Freud’s indicative papers on anal erotism and elaborated by Ferenczi and others, will be put to the test.
Close readings of classical psychoanalytic writings led to the central argument of this thesis: that there arises the possibility of contesting the enshrined status of the relation of faeces to ‘money’ on the grounds of this not being a truly unconscious symbolic relation, as ‘money’ is a construct that has to be taught. It is argued that the theorists of the classical period did not do justice to the possible connections between orality and ‘money’ – despite strong pointers within their writings to the oral developmental stage.
The final chapters attempt to close a gap by setting out an alternative hypothesis to anality based on the unconscious and orality. Karl Abraham’s work provides a key theoretical scaffolding in this respect. An oral hypothesis, taking seriously the actual and fantasmatic aspects of hunger and greed, is argued to be important for the psychoanalytic understanding of the unconscious motivations and impulses that could underlie financial corruption. With recourse to both the anal theory and the alternative oral hypothesis, which taken together enable a deeper analysis, a reading is undertaken of selected texts on 1960s’ corruption in order to explore the question of what could have been taking place psychoanalytically and to lay the building blocks towards a psychoanalytic theory of financial corruption.

Department nameScience and Technology
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print07 Jul 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Jul 2017
Accepted07 Jul 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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