The Psychodynamics of Casino Culture and Politics
Authors: Yates, C.
Journal: The Journal of Religion and Health: Medicine, Psychology, and Spirituality
The metaphor of the casino, with its associations of risk, uncertainty and illusion resonate at different levels of the contemporary cultural and political imagination where notions of chance and luck – together with the arbitrariness of being either a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’ are pervading themes. This article combines cultural theory and object relations psychoanalysis to discuss the notion of casino culture as a psycho-cultural formation and its relationship to the emergence of what I call ‘casino politics’ within the contemporary era of risky populist politics in the US and the UK. The psycho-cultural approach deployed here, combines cultural and political analyses with the psychoanalytic theories of Psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott (1971) and those influenced by his ideas such as Christopher Bollas (1987) and Thomas Ogden (1992) who in different ways, foreground the role of play, illusion and the fantasy of transformation in their work. As I discuss, such an approach is useful because of its focus on the irrational affective, unconscious investments that underpin the ideology of casino culture and its politics – particularly in the contemporary in context of Brexit politics in the UK and Trump’s presidency in US where the fantasies associated with gambling are collectively mobilized to gain mastery over uncertainty and loss. As I discuss, within such a scenario, notions of luck and its unreliability also take on gendered connotations as femininity becomes associated with the fickle nature of chance and fantasies of the unreliable mother – an image that can be found in representations of female political leadership. The article contextualises the discussion by mapping the key socio-cultural and historical coordinates of casino culture and then turns to psychoanalytic understandings of gambling and applies those ideas to the analysis of casino politics through fictional and non-fictional examples of political leadership, where fantasies of casino politics are represented and articulated.