Against Polanyian orthodoxy: a reply to Hannes Lacher

Theory and Society 50 (3):417-441 (2021)

Abstract

Hannes Lacher’s article misrepresents and then denounces both the substance and the spirit of our book, The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique. Lacher claims his interpretation of Polanyi to be the only acceptable one, and vociferously alerts readers to beware the dangerous influence of our work. Because we continue to believe that familiarity with Polanyi’s theoretical framework is valuable for those resisting the depredations of neoliberalism and authoritarianism, we restate our commitment to interpreting Polanyi’s work in the most capacious way possible, treating it not as Scripture but as a body of work multidimensional enough for varying perspectives. In our reply to Lacher, we revisit several themes central to our book, including Polanyi’s complex use of “utopianism”; the “always-instituted economy”; the gold standard’s attack on the “democratic virus” and the rise of fascism; and Polanyi’s socialist commitment to democratizing the economy. We also suggest that by exploring several apparent puzzles in the text of GT it is possible to derive a more fruitful and powerful interpretation of Polanyi’s thinking.

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Margaret Somers
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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