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The Psychopathology of Collectors. Some General Remarks on Psychoanalysis and Collecting

In Freudian and post-Freudian theory we find elements for a clinic of the collector. For instance, Karl Abraham’s notion of the “anal character” has been used as a basis for the psychological profile of people who accumulate. But although most collectors do not present with these clinical symptoms, the idea of considering collecting as a pathological profile loses all meaning in a modern world so oriented towards materialism. In our society the collector is almost a prototype for what is considered normal. Therefore, it is not in a psychological sense that we need to look for his singularity, but rather within the context of a specific economy, which we can understand through George Bataille’s definition of a “general economy”. The collector is not a normal consumer because the basic idea of his own economy is not to accumulate but to spend. The problem of the collectors’ economy – that of the true collector – is that it is not based on usefulness or profit but rather on pure loss. In contrast to the behaviour of the miser, the collector’s behaviour could even be considered desirable, highly prized as indeed it was during the Renaissance. It is the extravagance of the person who spends on himself and others with flair and without calculation. But however civilised in our modern world, this virtue is always associated with scandals or even subversion.


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