Community and the market in Michael Polanyi's philosophy of science

Modern Intellectual History 6 (1):59-89 (2009)
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Abstract

The chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891–1976) is today recognized as one of the most important twentieth-century thinkers about scientific knowledge and scientific community. Yet Polanyi's philosophy of science exhibits an unresolved tension between science as a traditional community and science as an intellectual marketplace. Binding together these different models was important for his overall intellectual and political project, which was a defense of bourgeois liberal order. His philosophy of science and his economic thought were mutually supporting elements within this political project. Polanyi's intellectual corpus formed a contradictory unity, the tensions within which were manageable only under particular historical conditions. His attempt to hold together traditional authority and the free market fit with, and derived plausibility from, the social conditions under which his philosophical work came to maturity: Keynesian class compromise and surviving habits of social deference within postwar Britain

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