Monday, October 3, 2011

For the love of money

At the conclusion of the wonderful film, The Social Network, the fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg is seen trying to unsuccessfully “friend” a woman who had rejected him at the beginning of the film because, in her eyes, he was a jerk. The simple moral message is clear; “Money can’t buy you love.” As successful as he is, the woman will always consider him a jerk.  So is there a desire for money?

Freud says somewhere that there is no desire for money, because desire is built upon our earlier experiences as infant and children, and when we are young, we have no conception of money. This suggests that the pursuit of money is indeed the indirect pursuit of love. One can see the problem here. The love attendant upon getting a lot of money is always suspect. Aren’t people pretending to love you to profit from their connection to you? This gives an account of why the pursuit of money might become compulsive, and why those who pursue money seem greedy. As you get more money, your grow more suspicious of others who wish to connect to you. So you need even more money to extract the signals of love from others. So greed is not really a hunger for money it is the unsatisfied need for love.

It does not have to always turn out this way of course. For example, the wealthy hang out with the wealthy, they gain some modicum of appreciation through philanthropy, or if they are “self-made,” they take pride in their achievement, that is they love themselves. One suspect that Steve Jobs, who is not by most accounts at all philanthropic, fits the last category and rightfully so. He is a genius!

But one has to ask how this dynamic works when it becomes general. What happens in a bubble when becoming wealthy seems within easy reach?  People become wealthy on paper without experiencing the crucible of hard work that should accompany real money-making. They are, in this sense, immature money seekers.  The power they feel to spend their wealth becomes its own aphrodisiac. They are in love with themselves, another word for narcissism. The psychodynamics of the bubble is therefore the psychodynamics of narcissism. Perhaps this gives some insight into why bubbles will always be with us. Who can resist the siren song of being at the center of a loving world?

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