A psychoanalytic and culturalist understanding of gambling

Claudia Venuleo, Tiziana Marinaci


In the mainstream approach, gambling is regarded as the expression of illness, related to individual deficits, and the gambler is viewed as an individual free from social and cultural influences. On the other hand, anthropological and cross-cultural studies show that cultural variations exist in the meaning of gambling, its course and outcome.

In this paper, a psychoanalytic and culturalist interpretation of gambling is outlined, asserting the unity of mind and context. The gambling dynamic is framed as the marker of the mind’s affective way of making sense of experience. The various ways the dynamic is manifested, the individual and social implications are seen as strictly intertwined with the social-cultural context where sensemaking develops.

The clinical implications of this perspective will be underlined with regard to the way the request of help is approached, the role of the therapist in the clinical setting and the wider socio-cultural environment in generating or limiting new semiotic opportunities for the individuals and their behaviour.



gambling; affective semiosis; culture

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