A culture of mania: A psychoanalytic view of the incubation of the 2008 credit crisis

Winner of the Imagination Lab Foundation Award for Innovative Scholarship

From Organization

This article draws on psychoanalytic ideas and their application to social and orga­nizational dynamics, to develop a conceptual framework around the notion of a manic culture and apply it to our understanding of the 2008 credit crisis. It recognises that there was a pperiod lasting two decades preceding the crisis of mania. This manic culture played a significant role in creating the conditions for the problems that led to the credit crisis. The study highlights that warning signs can be observed, but that they served not as warnings but as provocations to act manically in taking on more extreme risks. The paper explores history hhoping to better our understanding of our limited awareness and control to go some way to diminish the power of these forces in the future. It makes contributions both to theory and to the understanding of the credit crisis.


In this theoretically informed study I explore the broader cultural changes that created the conditions for the credit crisis of 2008. Drawing on psychoanalysis and its application to organizational and social dynamics, I develop a theoretical framework around the notion of a manic culture, comprised of four aspects: denial; omnipotence; triumphalism; and over-activity. I then apply this to the credit crisis and argue that the events of 2008 were preceded by an incubation period lasting for over two decades during which a culture of mania developed. Then, focusing especially on the Japanese and South East Asia/LTCM crises, I argue that a series of major ruptures in capitalism during this incubation period served not as warnings, but as opportunities for a manic response, thereby dramatically increasing the risks involved. I also I suggest therefore that this.

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Article details
Stein, M. (2011). A culture of mania: a psychoanalytic view of the incubation of the 2008 credit crisis Organization, 18 (2), 173-186 DOI: 10.1177/1350508410390071

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