From economic crisis to psychic meltdown

As I write this the crisis in the Eurozone seems to be going from strength to strength.  First Greece now Italy and then……..?   So where will it all end?  But then again, where (and why) did it all begin….?

And it’s not only bankers jobs that are at risk (with reference to a really interesting article in The Times on Tuesday (Tom Whipple: Why bankers don’t talk about stress and the City, The Times, 8 November 2011) which is about top City executives who are cracking under the pressure but, because of the macho culture of the City and a virtual taboo regarding mental health problems, are reluctant to talk about such pressures.

The point that many commentators seem to ‘forget’ (or perhaps would rather not mention because in one way or another they may have benefited from it) is that a great deal of hope and aspiration over the last few decades has been built on borrowed money, including the massive expansion of the public sector in various countries.  Although Greece is a prime example of this, let’s not forget that most of the new jobs in the UK under the last Labour government were created in the public sector, and much of this was funded by tax receipts from the finance industry.  The government turned a blind eye to the excesses of the City as long as they could keep raking in the money.

Of course, it’s almost too easy to blame the finance capitalists, who were playing with fire and ended up unleashing forces that they neither understood or could control.  But what about all those who were happy to live on borrowed money (and time)?  All those sub-prime mortgages and cheap loans, so they could all live the dream – which turned out to be a nightmare.

Now, it seems, the bubble is bursting.  But what of the psychical cost, the broken dreams, the shattered illusions?  At the moment I still sense that many people, including politicians and financiers, think it’s a question of getting through this crisis then back to business as usual – just as they did in 2008-09.  They seem to forget (or perhaps are too afraid to admit publicly) that in the 1930s the recession (or rather depression) lasted for a decade and it was only really WW2 – and the build up to it – that ended it.  Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself quite that way!

And perhaps the term ‘depression’ is quite apt.  Not only is there a danger of the economy becoming depressed in financial terms but also in psychical terms.  The other point, of course, is that capitalism is structured around crisis: it survives through constant mutation, which means it’s in a continual state of flux, i.e. crisis.  And most people are not going to get rich out of it.  This is what politicians won’t – and can’t out of political expediency – admit.

So how is psychoanalysis to respond………..?