In 1978, Lefty Rosenthal—a former Chicago bookmaker—became Director of Entertainment at the Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Roemer (1994: 111), in his book
about Vegas, says, « Lefty had traveled a road paved with controversy and dispute. I
guess you could say Lefty was representative of Las Vegas ». What makes the Rosenthal story interesting and relevant to organizational theory? We intend to analyze
whether Lefty is “representative” of Las Vegas, and in doing so, we examine the issue
of representation. Specifically, we analyze the story, as told by Roemer (1994) and Pileggi (1995), from a historical point of view and, then, from a Jungian archetypal point of
view. However, we would like to be somewhat post-Jungian, and following the Anti-Oedipus of Deleuze and Guattari (1977), we will put forward a revised Jungian account for
the material genealogy of Las Vegas. We conclude the paper by commenting upon the
“demise of representation” (Knights, 1997) and its implications for organizational theory.
In 1978, Lefty Rosenthal—a former Chicago bookmaker—became
Director of Entertainment at the Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las
Vegas. Financed by Teamsters’ pension money, the Stardust was
“owned” by Allen Glick. Despite Glick’s ostensible ownership, the
Stardust was part of the gambling operations of La Cosa Nostra.
Rosenthal was the mob’s “inside man” at the Stardust, but Rosenthal is Jewish and, thus, « could never be a member of the organization [La Cosa Nostra] » and did not need to abide by the protocol
of La Cosa Nostra (Pileggi, 1995: 43). Roemer, in his book about
Vegas, says, « Lefty had traveled a road paved with controversy and
dispute. I guess you could say Lefty was representative of Las
Vegas » (1994: 111, our emphasis). Martin Scorsese immortalized
Rosenthal, a k a Ace, by filming his story. The film, Casino, was
billed as the story of “how the mob lost its control of the neon moneymaking machine it created” and as a love story: a “romantic love
triangle” among Rosenthal, Rosenthal’s friend (the mobster Tony
Spilotro), and Rosenthal’s wife.
What makes the Rosenthal story interesting and relevant to organizational theory? We intend to analyze whether Lefty is “representative” of Las Vegas, and in doing so, we examine the issue of
representation. Specifically, we analyze the story, as told by Roemer (1994) and Pileggi (1995), from a historical point of view and,
then, from a Jungian archetypal point of view. However, we would
like to be somewhat post-Jungian, and following the Anti-Oedipus
of Deleuze and Guattari (1977), we will put forward a revised Jungian account for the material genealogy of Las Vegas. We conclude the paper by commenting upon the “demise of representation” (Knights, 1997) and its implications for organizational theory.
Knights (1997: 1), citing Benhabib (1992), has commented upon the
« demise of an episteme of representation ». We consider two problems
identified by Knights. One problem is dualistic thinking. This style of
thinking is very common to Western societies. For example, we talk
about right and wrong; good and bad; nature and nurture; public and
private; heart and head; quality and quantity; rational and emotional;
etc. These very familiar dualisms are often cast as oppositions. When
we use these dualisms, we often elevate one term while simultaneously inferring a denigration of the other (see Carr and Zanetti, 1999).
A second related problem associated with the episteme of representation is reification. Knights (1997: 3-4) describes this problem, as follows:
« What has come to be defined as the problem of dualism occurs when
(…) ‘this’ or ‘that’ is reified as an ontological reality rather than merely
a provisional, subjectively significant, and hence contestable, ordering
of ‘thing’. Dualistic theorizing, then, commits the fallacy of misplaced
concreteness since it believes that the distinctions made as part of
ordering ‘reality’ or organizing the world are accurate or true representations of a reality beyond, and as if it were independent of, the theorist ».
Knights’ critique of representation is amplified by Holland (1999) in his
introduction to the Anti-Oedipus of Deleuze and Guatarri. Holland
(1999: 37) argues that a signifier, such as Oedipus, and its signified,
the Oedipus Complex, say nothing about the referent. In other words,
Freud’s Oedipus and the Oedipus Complex say nothing about their referent, which Deleuze and Guatarri identify as desire. The problem
associated with a sign, such as Freud’s Oedipus and Oedipus Complex, is this: the referent (desire) is displaced onto an erroneous signified. It’s as if the subject, once acquainted with the Oedipus Complex,
says, “Oh, that’s (incest) what I want.” (for a discussion, see Holland
1999: 34). The Oedipus Complex creates desire that might not otherwise exist.
Let us analyze the statement that « Lefty was representative of Las
Vegas » (Roemer, 1994: 111, our emphasis) in light of Knights’ comments. In other words, we find in that statement a “dualism”: Lefty (an
individual) and Las Vegas (a city). But more importantly, we ask these
questions: Are other dualisms present in these stories? Do the stories
of Lefty Rosenthal and Las Vegas commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness? We begin our analysis of Lefty Rosenthal’s activities in Las
Vegas by reviewing the story.
Pileggi’s book (1995) is a compilation of first-person interviews, including interviews with Lefty Rosenthal. Roemer’s book (1994) reports
mob activities from the point of view of a former FBI agent who worked
in Las Vegas (Roemer himself). In other words, both books are histories: i.e., seemingly objective reports about unequivocal, concrete
events that occurred in the past. What were these events?
In 1974 Allen Glick purchased the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas.
Financed by the Teamster’s pension fund, the purchase was arranged
through a mobster: i.e., a “made” member of La Cosa Nostra (LCN). In
time, Glick owned four casinos, and Lefty Rosenthal became Glick’s
employee. According to Roemer, Lefty was the “hidden boss” of the
Stardust. Although Lefty could not obtain a Nevada gaming license,
Lefty was able to work inside the casinos. Lefty is Jewish and, therefore, not a “made” member of the LCN. The mob’s man in Las Vegas
was Tony Spilotro, a boyhood friend of Lefty. A known member of the
LCN, Tony could not work inside the casinos. Under the guidance of
the inside man, La Cosa Nostra in Chicago received the “skim”: i.e.,
money skimmed from the gambling tables.
Throughout the seventies, mob operations of the casinos boomed, and
Lefty Rosenthal married a beautiful former showgirl named Geri.
According to Pileggi and Roemer, Geri was addicted to alcohol and
drugs. Lefty and Geri lived in a $1 million home facing the fourteenth
tee of the Las Vegas Country Club. However, by 1980, LCN activities
in Vegas stumbled. Despite LCN prohibitions against such affairs, Tony
Spilotro violated protocol and “sponsored” Geri Rosenthal. The mob
watched Tony, Lefty, and Geri. The FBI maintained constant surveillance over the mob’s activities. The Nevada Gaming Commission
watched Lefty. In 1981, a car bomb that may have been planted by
Tony severely injured Lefty. In 1984 Tony was indicted for racketeering.
In 1986 Tony was beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield.
Also in 1986, Glick testified in court against the mob, and four highranking mob bosses—including Joey Aiuppa, the top boss of the
Chicago mob—were in handcuffs on their way to Leavenworth.
Never a “made” man, Lefty retired to Florida. Geri Rosenthal, who died
of a drug overdose, may have been murdered. Glick retired to La Jolla,
« with a full private security force including, at one time, former FBI
agent Bill Fleming » (Roemer, 1994: 256). According to Roemer (1994:
283), the work of the FBI and U. S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago
reduced the activities of the LCN, and the mob lost its hold on the
Vegas casinos. Today, legitimate corporations own the casinos. In
1990, for example, there were 20 gambling stocks on Wall Street.
From an historical point of view, these stories of Pileggi and Roemer
are, in Knights’ words, « true representations of a reality » (1997: 3-4).
A former FBI agent, Roemer (1994) writes, « There are writers with
much greater literary success than mine who are writing the story of
Las Vegas, authors who I like and respect. However, unlike many of
them, I have ‘been there.’ I’m not writing about something I don’t know.
I knew Tony Spilotro, I know Chicago, and I know Las Vegas » (1994: xiii).
Pileggi and Roemer have “been there, ” but we suggest that their
(Pileggi’s and Roemer’s) realities are not independent of the
observers. Their realities reflect their points of view. Roemer, for example, reflects the policeman’s point of view. Pileggi’s inside account
does not include interviews with Geri Rosenthal or Tony Spilotro. La
Cosa Nostra has no voice in the story. So, in other words, multiple realities are apparent: the reality of each participant and the reality of each
observer, who is generally privileged in scientific research. The statement “Lefty represents Las Vegas” is now unclear. “True” representation implies one reality, but multiple participants and observers imply
multiple realities. To explore this notion of multiple realities and to
explore another dualism, we look at archetypal psychology.
ARCHETYPES AND THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS
Archetype, a word that has become part of our everyday vocabulary, is
central to the work of Jung. Indeed, many in the arena of psychology
describe Jungian psychology as “archetypal psychology” rather than
“analytical psychology.” The term analytical psychology, as coined by
Jung, captures the intent of his approach and differentiates it from
Freud’s psychoanalysis. Today, use of the term “archetype” in the true
Jungian sense invokes Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious:
i.e., archetypes comprise the collective unconscious.
The notion of the unconscious is attributable to Freud. According to
Freud, the realm of the unconscious is inhabited by previous experiences, memories, feelings and urges, of which the individual is not
actively aware. Awareness recedes due to defensive mechanisms or
processes; the major defensive mechanism is repression. The subterranean strata of the psyche—not open to conscious scrutiny by the
individual—are responsible for a broad range of dynamic effects on
conscious processes and behaviour. For Freud (1977: 107), the “tools”
of psychoanalysis, such as free association and dream analysis, render conscious that which was unconscious and, in so doing, potentially “free” the patient from a compulsion or behavior arising from unconscious psychical material.
While accepting Freud’s conception of the “personal” unconscious,
Jung suggests a second layer of the unconscious: the collective
unconscious. The collective unconscious, shared in common with all
humans, contains primordial images and ideas that have emotions and
symbolism “attached.” These primordial images become manifest in
fantasies, dreams, myths and emotional responses to the world
around us. As identified by Jung, these common patterns of psychic
perception are archetypes. Unfortunately “archetype” is often reduced
to “common image, ” and this reduction does a degree of violence to
the subtlety of Jung’s conception.
According to Jung (1969a: 517-518), the archetypes are the collective
unconscious: « categories analogous to the logical categories which
are always and everywhere present as the basic postulates of reason »
and akin to Plato’s ideal forms except that they are « categories of the
imagination ». Neither innate ideas nor common images, archetypes
are typical modes of apprehension (Jung, 1969d). An archetype « is
determined as to its content only when it has become conscious and
is therefore filled out with the material of conscious experience » (Jung,
1968: 79). Confusion between the archetype itself and the content of
the archetype is understandable as specific archetypes are often
referred to by their symbolic or imaginal manifestations. For example,
Jung (1969b: 419) talks of the « Jonah-and-the-Whale » image and
says it has « any number of variants, for instance the witch who eats
children, the wolf, the ogre, the dragon, and so on ». These images are
all variants on the theme of being, psychologically, engulfed: i.e., an
experience of being devoured or swallowed. Thus, as one writer notes,
« the archetype is an abstract theme (engulfment), and the archetypal
images (whale, witch, ogre, dragon, etc.) are concrete variations on
that theme » (Adams, 1997: 102-103).
Jung describes a number of archetypes whose content is anthropomorphic: for example, the anima/animus, the Divine Child, the Great Mother,
the Wise Old Man, the Trickster, and the Kore or Maiden. The personalization brings the theme or pattern into our consciousness and, thereby,
enhances our awareness of the existence of the theme of the archetype.
Other archetypal contents are not so personalized. For example, the
archetype of rebirth and of wholeness—archetypes of transformation—
are « typical situations, places, ways and means, that symbolize the kind
of transformation in question » (Jung, 1959c: 38).
We should note that, as early as 1914, Freud (1990) alludes to the
existence of archetypes, calling them phylogenetic « schemata » and
« phylogenetic experience » (1990: 317). And, earlier still in the Interpretation of Dreams, Freud takes seriously Nietzsche’s view that
dreams are a « primeval relic of humanity » and suggests that « dreams
and neuroses seem to have preserved more mental antiquities than
we could have imagined possible » (Freud, 1988: 700). Nevertheless,
Jung (1977: 288) says Freud’s Oedipus complex « was the first
archetype Freud discovered, the first and only one ». Freud (1990) himself states that the Oedipus complex is one of the phylogenetic
schemata, specifically « the phylogenetically inherited schemata (…) I
am inclined to take the view that they are precipitates from the history
of human civilization. The Oedipus complex (…) is one of them (…) is,
in fact, the best known member of the class » (1990: 368).
Although both Freud and Jung are Lamarckian and neo-Kantian in
their perceptions of the architecture of the unconscious, Jung emphasizes these “logical categories” and the collective unconscious, while
Freud emphasizes the personal unconscious. According to Jung, personal growth occurs when the content of the archetypes becomes conscious such that the individual organizes and understands human
experience. The archetypes themselves are neither positive nor negative. When read through specific experiences, each archetype has a
“light” and “dark” side.
It is the archetype of the trickster that we particularly wish to focus
upon in this paper. In this context, we wish to examine the stories told
by Roemer and Pileggi for their unconscious content. Through such an
analysis, we will suggest that Lefty Rosenthal, as described by Roemer and Pileggi, manifests the trickster archetype.
THE TRICKSTER AND LEFTY ROSENTHAL
Many find Jung’s work on archetypes difficult to grasp. The archetypal
patterns of the psyche are not unveiled through normal linear thought
processes, but rather through an impressionistic collection of themes
and aspects that seem to cohere to reveal figures with definable features. When Jung (1969c) describes the trickster, he sees a « psyche
that has hardly left the animal level » (1969c: 260). Jung continues,
« [The trickster myth] holds the earlier low intellectual and moral level
before the eyes of the more highly developed individual, so that he
shall not forget how things looked yesterday » (1969c: 267). In other
words, the Jungian archetypal trickster « represents a sort of primitive
developmental level common to humanity [and] progresses developmentally within cultures as within an individual’s psychological growth,
learning over time to deal with its bodily and sexual appetites » (Doty
and Hynes, 1993: 15, italics is our added emphasis). Some have come
to view the trickster as an inferior “being”. However, as alluded to
above, we must be carefully to understand in these descriptions that
all archetypes are neither good nor bad; each has a light and dark side
revealed through our experience. The image of the trickster as inferior
is not a universal image. Radin (1956), for example, in his study of
American Indian mythology reveals the trickster to be complex and
describes the trickster in the following way:
« Trickster is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and
negator, he who dupes and is always duped himself. He wills nothing
consciously. At all times he is constrained to behave as he does from
impulses over which he has no control. He knows neither good nor evil
yet he is responsible for both. He possesses no values, social or
moral, is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his
actions all values come into being. » (1956: xxiii).
This trickster, as seen in American Indian mythology, has many counterparts in other cultures, including the following: Ananse (African);
Brer Rabbit (American Southern); Coyote (American Indian); Hermes
(Greek); Odysseus (Greek [see Carr, 2000]); Herschel (Jewish);
Horang-I (Korean); and, Uncle Tompa (Tibetan). According to Hynes
(1993), the common features of these figures could be described as
follows: 1/ the trickster is ambiguous, anomalous, and polyvalent: i.e.,
the epitome of oppositions and extremes; 2/ the trickster is a deceiver
and trick-player. He disrupts, lies, and cheats. However, the trickster
may be deceived in return. In one North American Indian tale, the trickster entices some ducks to dance with their eyes closed; whereupon,
the trickster wrings their necks, but while the trickster naps, others
steal the ducks; 3/ the trickster is a shape-shifter or master of disguise;
4/ the trickster is a situation-invertor and can overturn any person,
place, or belief. He can turn a place of safety into one of danger and a
bad situation into a good situation; 5/ the trickster often has uncertain
or impure birth, so he serves as a messenger of the gods. He can
breach boundaries, cross lines, and mediate; 6/ the trickster is a
bricoleur: a fixer or person able to transform anything and find creative
solutions to problems.
The stories of Lefty Rosenthal provide an impressionistic collection of
themes and aspects that seem to cohere in a fashion to reveal the figure of the trickster.
The trickster is ambiguous, anomalous, and polyvalent. He has uncertain or impure birth. Because he’s Jewish, Lefty is not a “made” guy or
member of La Cosa Nostra; nevertheless, he worked inside the casinos. Unlike his friend Tony Spilotro, a “made” guy from Chicago who
was not allowed to enter casinos, Lefty could be the messenger of the
gods. According to Hynes (1993), the trickster because of his « uncertain or impure [birth can] slip back and forth across the border » (1993:
39). Lefty could slip in and out of the casino, even though Spilotro—
the made guy—could not enter the casino.
During the 1970s, one of Lefty’s jobs in Las Vegas was the “skim”.
Skimming is the bricoleur’s task; skim is the money stolen from gaming tables and slot machines before it can be officially counted. According to Roemer (1994: 83), under each gaming table is a “drop-box”, but
any dealer can skim because he can “palm” any bill. Collusion among
dealers, shift managers, and casino managers permits heavy skimming. During the 1960s, Bobby Kennedy estimated that $10 million a
year was skimmed from Nevada casinos; according to Roemer (1994:
143), Tony (with Lefty’s assistance) sent millions of dollars a year in
skim to Chicago. Tony and Lefty worked together in Vegas « to produce
the skim and make sure it was huge [and…] to get it back to Chicago »
(Roemer, 1994: 192).
Although the trickster is a messenger, the trickster’s status among the
gods is « unstable » (Hynes, 1993: 41); sometimes, the trickster will imitate the power of the gods and find himself ostracized. During his years
in Las Vegas, Lefty was incredibly presumptuous. He sought publicity
and lived in a million dollar home. Lefty wrote feature columns for the
Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Valley Time newspapers. He hosted a
television variety show from the Stardust casino. For years Lefty
attempted to secure a Nevada gaming license and challenged the hierarchy of the LCN, the Nevada gaming commission, the FBI, and the
Like a trickster, Lefty cheated and deceived. One of the interesting
characteristics of tricksters is that, as deceivers, they are susceptible
to being deceived. For example, in a North American Indian tale, the
trickster « entices a group of ducks into dancing with their eyes closed,
whereupon he wrings their necks, one by one, anticipating a nice
meal » (Hynes, 1993: 35). But, while the trickster naps to rest from his
activities, other animals eat the ducks. Like the North American Indian
trickster, Lefty as the deceiver was also deceived. According to
Suzanne Kloud, who was a friend of Lefty’s wife Geri, Lefty cheated on
Geri: « He’d come home after his show at three or four in the morning,
kick her out of bed, and talk to one of his girlfriends on the phone for
two hours. (…) He was always screwing around » (Pileggi, 1995: 279).
Lefty was « screwing around » and then Tony began to « screw his pal »
(Roemer, 1994: 194) by « sponsoring » Lefty’s wife, Geri. The cheater
Not too surprisingly, Lefty ran foul of the mob. Even after the car bombing, Lefty challenged the gods of the LCN; he held a press conference
(Pileggi, 1995: 328) and inverted a bad situation into good press. Currently, Lefty—an accomplished shape shifter—has a web page, frankleftyrosenthal.com, where he is described as the « country’s top handicapper » and where visitors see a photograph of Robert DeNiro as
“Ace”: i.e., Lefty Rosenthal. Unlike Glick, Lefty did not testify against
the mob. Lefty the trickster fared better than Tony, who was found
beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield.
Lefty Rosenthal seems to exhibit the central features of the trickster,
and the stories told by Pileggi and Roemer appear to be trickster narratives. Although Roemer and Pileggi were essentially privileged
observers, Lefty as trickster is both a character in the stories and,
because his “inside account” is found in Pileggi’s text, a narrator.
According to Doueihi (1993: 193), trickster stories juxtapose the « discursive, signifying aspect of the narrative and the referential, signified
aspect of the text as story ». The latter « text as story » focuses on the
trickster as a character in stories. Lefty is a character in the story of Las
Vegas, but he is more. We would like to explore the “more”, but first we
would like to look at the trickster character in the stories.
Doueihi (1993: 194) argues that most analyses focus on the trickster
as a character in stories, thus treating « language conventionally, as a
transparent medium for the communication of some meaning or another ». In other words, the stories of Roemer and Pileggi report unequivocal events in which Lefty Rosenthal played a part. When the trickster
is a character in the story, the meaning communicated is in terms of a
story of human religious and cultural history, « and particularly in relation to the origin » (Doueihi, 1993: 194). In relation to an « origin », history is frequently seen as « progress from primitive darkness and ignorance toward clarity and meaning » (Doueihi, 1993: 194). The trickster,
then, represents the primitive darkness as seen from the point of view
of modern Western scholars or writers, and the trickster becomes a
part of the Western distortion and suppression of the Other (Doueihi,
1993: 196). Trickster stories point to a « conventional reality (…) produced out of a particular univocal interpretation of phenomena appearing as signs » (Doueihi, 1993: 198). A conventional interpretation of the
Vegas trickster narrative with Lefty as a character in the story is this:
Lefty as representative of mob operations in Las Vegas represents “the
origin” of Vegas. So, viewed conventionally, the Vegas story seems to
be one of progress, progress from the primitive mobster days to the
days of legitimate corporations.
However, Doueihi (1993: 199) suggests that trickster narratives can
break down « into an open-ended play of signifiers ». Lefty is character
and narrator. Although Lefty as character is “fixed” by the story
because he can’t change the story, Lefty as narrator creates the story.
As Doty and Hynes suggest, the trickster « often (…) represents this or
that, or perhaps this and that » (1993: 24). The point is that Lefty as
narrator grapples with border-crossing, ambiguity, and marginality.
Lefty describes a meeting with Gil Beckley, « the most prominent bookmaker and layoff man in the United States, » as follows:
« He [Beckley] says to me, (…) “Lefty, I want to tell you something. (…)
I’m going to tell you something that you need to keep precious to you
for the rest of your life. (…) I’d give half of what I own”—and this is a
wealthy man at the time— “if I was as clean as you. Stay that way.” I’ll
never forget that, but at the time I didn’t really know what he meant. I
didn’t respond. But he was telling me to play it smooth. Don’t get
pinched. Watch your reputation. Don’t get labeled. » (Pileggi, 1995: 48;
italics is our added emphasis).
Although Lefty didn’t always play it smooth, he’s alive and working in
Florida. Geri and Tony are dead.
Myths in which the trickster is narrator are “open-ended.” The trickster
can be this or that, this and that. R. D. Laing said that his understanding of schizophrenia was enhanced by studies of West African trickster
myths (Doty and Hynes, 1993: 25). Trickster myths in which the trickster is a character are representations; they are dualistic, usually differentiating the “origin” from the present, and they reify both the origin
and modernity. The point is that trickster myths as signified stories are
representational, but trickster narratives can signify this or that, this
and that. It is to this signifying aspect of the narrative that we now turn
Holland (1999), in his book about the Anti-Oedipus of Deleuze and
Guattari, argues that Deleuze and Guattari « reject representation itself
(…) as a distortion of the real mode of operation of the unconscious »
(1999: 22). Specifically, as mentioned above, Deleuze and Guattari critique Freud’s reification of Oedipus, arguing that the signifier, Oedipus,
and the signified, Oedipus Complex, say nothing about the referent,
desire. In general, Deleuze and Guattari suggest that any fixed representation distorts the referent and that representations have historical
specificity, not universal truth. Furthermore, by rejecting the notion of
stable identities, Deleuze and Guattari celebrate personal change and
multiple desires: i.e., they promote « schizophrenia » as unlimited
semiosis or a « process of deterritorialization » (Deleuze and Guattari,
1977: 282). Their celebration of change as « absolute decoding »
(1977: 250) has been criticized. Glass (1993), among others, says that
Deleuze and Guattari romanticize schizophrenia, which conventional
clinicians identify as a serious disease. What if we examine Lefty’s
story as a « process of deterritorialization »? What further might we be
able to glean?
First, the following would seem to be suggested: To the extent that
Lefty represents Las Vegas, the “missing” referent is, as with Oedipus
and the Oedipus Complex, desire itself, an ever-changing energy
which resists labeling, just as the trickster resists labeling. To the
extent that Lefty represents Las Vegas, desire is displaced to the casinos of 20th century Las Vegas. It’s as if the gamblers in Las Vegas say,
“Oh, that’s [the slot machines and neon lights of Las Vegas] what I
want.” The referent (desire) is displaced onto an erroneous signified
(Vegas). Our suggestion historicizes the referent. Instead of suffering
from a fixed Oedipal Complex, subjects in Las Vegas at the end of the
twentieth century gamble.
Second, the following would seem to be suggested: When Roemer, in
his book about Vegas, says, « Lefty had traveled a road paved with
controversy and dispute », Roemer is identifying a schizophrenic process. According to Deleuze and Guattari (1977: 245), « schizo-flows
(…) animate “our” arts and “our” sciences ». The schizophrenic self
possesses multiple desires. Whereas the modernist perceives stability—of the essential self and essential things—the postmodern
schizophrenic of Anti-Oedipus perceives differences. The schizophrenic
of Deleuze and Guattari views a landscape of multiple images because
“things” lack fixed substance. As Doueihi (1993) says, trickster narratives can be open-ended signifiers, signifying this and that, this or
To take an example, Pileggi (1995: 13) introduces Frank in this way:
« Frank Rosenthal came to Las Vegas in 1968 for the same reason so
many other Americans have—to get away from his past. Las Vegas
was a city with no memory. It was the place you went for a second
chance. It was the American city where people went after the divorce,
after the bankruptcy, even after a short stint in the county jail. (…) It
was also a city where you could strike it rich—a kind of money-happy
Frank and other Americans are not “stuck” with any identity. Changes
in the self are possible, according to Deleuze and Guattari. In « money-happy Lourdes », the arbiter of success is money, an abstract and
empty image of value. Lefty came to Las Vegas seeking a second
chance, and after his car is bombed, he is given yet another chance in
Florida. According to Deleuze and Guattari, the positive aspect of a
place like Las Vegas would be its meaninglesssness: i.e., its rapid
deterritorialization and decoding of meaning, such that the Frank
Rosenthals of the world can get away from the past.
One way to understand this schizophrenic process of deterritorialization and decoding is to look at Lefty’s battle with the Nevada Gaming
Commission. According to Pileggi (1995: 198-203):
« The commission’s refusal to license him (Lefty) was supposed to be
the end of Lefty Rosenthal at the Stardust. Lefty was to be out of gaming. (…) On January 29, 1976, Lefty moved out of his newly refurbished office at the Stardust and went home. The next day control
board investigators learned that his $2.5 million ten-year contract was
still in effect. Lefty Rosenthal had no intention of either quitting or giving up. (…) From local courts to state courts to state appeals courts to
U. S. district courts to U. S. appeals courts and all the way to the U. S.
Supreme Court, Lefty led a parade of legal maneuverings. He won
some. He lost some. When he won, he moved back into his offices at
the Stardust. When he lost, he moved out. »
The schizophrenic, say Deleuze and Guattari (1977: 77), « does not
confine himself inside contradictions; on the contrary, he opens out
and, like a spore case inflated with spores, releases them as so many
singularities ». Lefty did not confine himself. His efforts at promoting his
cause continued despite constant “reterritorialization” and “recoding”
of his efforts by governing bodies.
In a place like Las Vegas, « schizo-flows » are permitted to « travel in a
free state »—deterritorialization and decoding—but, a counter tendency—reterritorialization and recoding—develops (see Deleuze and
Guattari, 1977: 246). For Deleuze and Guattari, the schizo-flows are
related to capitalism in general; we focus our discussion on Las Vegas
and suggest that Vegas functions by « pushing back » against the very
« schizo-flows » it initially permitted (see Deleuze and Guattari, 1977:
250). Las Vegas, or a social setting like Vegas, functions only by
inhibiting « with one hand what it decodes with the other » (Deleuze and
Guattari, 1977: 246). Frank could move to Florida and begin again. Of
course, in Florida, he found himself again in the gaming industry. Frank
is, in the words of Deleuze and Guattari, « recaptured ». The positive
side of Las Vegas is its meaninginglessness; the negative aspect is its
tendency to “reterritorialize” subjects. As Frank Rosenthal (1997) said
in a interview:
« Winning is virtually impossible. (…) and you have to admire the Wall
Street and major corporations recognizing the potential (of gambling).
(…) Today it’s [gambling] legal. You have the power and influence of
respectable major conglomerates, and that’s the big difference today
versus 20 or 30 years ago. »
Although the mob is not getting the skim, Wall Street recognizes the
potential of legalized gambling. Alliances « no longer pass through people but through money » (Deleuze and Guattari, 1977: 264).
To summarize our interpretation of Lefty’s story from an Anti-Oedipal,
anti-representational viewpoint is this: we argue that desire is displaced in Vegas and that Lefty is a kind of postmodern schizophrenic
who escapes Vegas only to be reterritorialized in Florida. The beauty
of the capitalistic system, as exemplified by Wall Street, is that individuals are socially formed, and though subject to “recapture” and “reterritorialization, ” they are still relatively free.
In our discussion of the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari, we have examined Lefty’s story, but ignored the made guy, Tony Spilotro. Tony is not
free. Tony and La Cosa Nostra are pre-capitalistic; their activities
impose extraeconomic factors. These extraeconomic forces are Mob
protocol and codes, which have the kind of meaning absent in money.
Capitalistic subjects are not confined by codes such as confine made
members of La Cosa Nostra. Capitalistic alliances « no longer pass
through people but through money » (Deleuze and Guattari, 1977: 264).
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS FOR A BEGINNING
We began by addressing the issue of representation in this statement:
“Lefty represents Las Vegas”. We examined the statement in three
ways. First, the statement can be interpreted as simply an historical
observation. Second, the statement can be interpreted in Jungian
archetypal fashion by identifying Lefty Rosenthal as a trickster. A conventional interpretation of the Vegas trickster narrative with Lefty as a
character in the story is this: Lefty as representative of mob operations in Las Vegas represents “the origin” of Vegas. So, viewed conventionally, the Vegas story seems to be one of progress, progress
from the primitive mobster days to the days of legitimate corporations.
Third, the statement can be interpreted in light of a Jungian revision.
That is, the trickster can signify this and that, this or that, in an open-ended fashion suggestive of Anti-Oedipal schizophrenia. This third
interpretation specifically follows Deleuze and Guattari in avoiding a
fixed representation of unconscious desire. Whereas Jung understood a collective unconscious “hardwired to archetypes” (Lyons,
1997), such as the trickster, Deleuze and Guattari (1977: 47) describe
a « productive » unconscious, a « desiring machine that does not represent anything ».
Jung’s collective unconscious is unlike the desiring machine of
Deleuze and Guattari. An important difference is the materialistic and
social component of a “desiring machine”. Deleuze and Guattari connect the social and personal. That is, they historicize desire and the
unconscious in ways that are not found in the work of Jung. Interestingly, Adorno expressed a similar concern in his disapproval of fellow
critical theorist Walter Benjamin’s attraction to the collective unconscious. Adorno explained his concern by saying:
« It is of course not to allow the “bourgeois individual” to stand as the
actual substratum. It is to make the social function of the intérieur
transparent and to uncover its inclusiveness as illusion. But as illusion
not in opposition to a hypostatized collective unconscious, but the real
social process itself. The “individual” is thus a dialectical instrument of
passage which should not be mythicized away, but can only be sub-lated. » (Adorno, cited in Jay, 1996: 207).
Clearly, for Adorno one needs to understand the connection of the
archetype with the underlying mode of production. Thus the trickster in
Odysseus with all his cunning « shows himself to be a prototype of the
bourgeois individual » that comes to embody the principle of the capitalist economy, that is « Homo œconomicus » (Adorno and Horkheimer,
1997: 43, 63). Deleuze and Guattari, by connecting social and personal production (machines), also avoid the fixed representations of
archetypes and Oedipus. However, in contrast to Adorno, the work of
Deleuze and Guattari seems dualistic. As Knights (199: 3-47) says:
« What has come to be defined as the problem of dualism occurs when
(…) “this” or “that” is reified as an ontological reality rather than merely a provisional, subjectively significant, and hence contestable, ordering of “thing ». Deleuze and Guattari speak of decoding and recoding,
deterritorialization and reterritorialization, capitalism and pre-capitalism. We would like to suggest that the dualisms of Deleuze and Guattari appear to be a contestable, ordering of “thing” rather than reifications of an ontological reality. Whereas the modernist perceives stability—of the essential self and essential things—the postmodern
schizophrenic of Anti-Oedipus perceives differences. The differences
are dualistic, but appear to avoid the reification and essentialism found
If we now turn our attention to the field of organizational studies, we do
find some work that examines the role of unconscious archetypes in
the human psyche. Lyons (1997), for example, examines how the work
of Eric Trist and William Whyte manifests the archetypal feminine.
Lyons identifies their work as a feminine backlash to the “masculine
ethic” of rational management. Bowles (1997) employs an archetype—
the hero—to explore the “myth of management”. Like Lyons, Bowles
suggests that technical rationality has influenced management and
that such rationality is « antithetical to feeling, values, and emotions,
which Jung regards as the core of who we are as human beings »
(1997: 93). Examining whether Lefty is representative of Las Vegas
has afforded us some distance from the language and images that
seem to inhabit, but also entrap us in the prevailing familiar discourse.
This distance has allowed us to gain new insight into the matter of representation and to pave the way to revisions and additions to the work
of Lyons, Bowles and others who wish to understand archetype in
In similar vein, we would suggest that the field of organizational studies,
and those under this umbrella such as organizational behaviour and
organizational psychology, might do well to move beyond, and even
away from, simply describing those who work in organizations in terms
of single traits. Instead, organization theorists might embrace descriptions and analyses that acknowledge character types. Examples of
such pioneers include Maccoby (1976) and a few others (LaBier, 1983,
1986; Carr, 1993, 1998). Maccoby (1976), in a study of bureaucracies,
finds four main psychological types in the corporate structure; these
types are « distinct from one another in terms of the individual member’s
overall orientation to work, values and self-identity » (1976: 45). The four
main psychological character types of Maccoby are the craftsman; the
jungle fighter; the company man; and—the most successful in these
organizations—the gamesman. « The leading character in the study »
(1976: 48), the gamesman typified by a use of head qualities (intelligence, systems thinking, etc.) sees work as a game, thrives on competition, and gains pleasure in controlling the play. The “heart” qualities
(feelings, generosity, compassion, idealism, capacity to love) are not
encouraged in these corporations, and accordingly, these qualities are
not well developed in the gamesman. Organization theorists might usefully revisit the character types described by Maccoby (and those who
followed in similar vein) in light of the repositioning of representation
that is described in this paper. Could it be, for example, that Maccoby
has described a « selected and moulded » imaginal manifestation of
Jung’s « categories of the imagination », i.e. archetypes (1969a: 517-
518)? How might, as we describe it, the « connective syntheses of production » insight from the work of Deleuze and Guattari (1977: 12-13)
afford a clearer understanding of these character types? These questions would seem to be a useful beginning from a journey that started
with a story about Lefty Rosenthal.