Karl Polanyi's 1944 book, The Great Transformation, has been recognized as central for the field of economic sociology, but it has not been subject to the same theoretical scrutiny as other classic works in the field. This is a particular problem in that there are central tensions and complexities in Polanyi's argument. This article suggests that these tensions can be understood as a consequence of Polanyi's changing theoretical orientation. The basic outline of the book was developed in England in the (...) late 1930s when Polanyi was working within a specific type of Marxist framework. However, as he was writing the book, he developed several new concepts, including fictitious commodities and the embedded economy, that led in new directions. Because circumstances did not give him the time to revise his manuscript, the book is marked by a tension between these different moments in his own theoretical development. The result is that Polanyi glimpses the concept of the always embedded market economy, but he does not name it or elaborate it. (shrink)
Historically, there has been little agreement between advocates of radical financial reform and socialist theoreticians. However, in the new circumstances of the twenty-first century, a productive synthesis of these two traditions might be possible. Drawing on the franchise model of credit creation elaborated by Robert C. Hockett and the dysfunctions created by the extreme concentration of private financial institutions, this article outlines a reform agenda that would both democratize finance and facilitate the flow of funds into valuable forms of investment (...) that are currently starved for resources. If the new institutions envisioned in this proposal were able to take root and expand, they could ultimately facilitate a transition to socialism, defined as the subordination of the market to democratic politics. (shrink)
Despite the dominant role of market fundamentalist ideas in U.S. politics over the last thirty years, the Federal government has dramatically expanded its capacity to finance and support efforts of the private sector to commercialize new technologies. But the partisan logic of U.S. politics has worked to make these efforts invisible to mainstream public debate. The consequence is that while this “hidden developmental state” has had a major impact on the structure of the U.S. national innovation system, its ability to (...) be effective in the future is very much in doubt. The article ends by arguing that the importance of these developmental initiatives to the U.S. economy could present a significant opening for new progressive initiatives. (shrink)
This article proposes a neo-Polanyian theoretical framework for understanding the dynamics within contemporary market societies. It uses this framework to analyze the divergence between the United States and other developed societies that has become more pronounced in the first years of the twenty-first century. The argument emphasizes the shifting political alliances of the business community in the United States and suggests that from 1994 onward, business lost power in the right-wing coalition to its religious Right allies. The growing power of (...) a religious-based social movement is a critical ingredient in the unilateralist turn in the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. (shrink)
This article introduces the special issue on “Relational Work in Market Economies” by explaining the origins of the concept and its value in illuminating a dimension of market activity that has not been systematically addressed by social scientists. It also explains why this focus on individual economic transactions could be relevant for those whose interest centers on broader questions of political economy. Finally, there are brief descriptions of the other six articles that make up this special issue.
In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act that ended the entitlement of poor families to government assistance. The debate leading up to that transformation in welfare policy occurred in the shadow of Speenhamland—an episode in English Poor Law history. This article revisits the Speenhamland episode to unravel its tangled history. Drawing on four decades of recent scholarship, the authors show that Speenhamland policies could not have had the consequences that have been attributed to (...) them. The article ends with an alternative narrative that seeks to explain how the Speenhamland story became so deeply entrenched. (shrink)
While financial institutions have not figured prominently in utopian thinking, the democratization of finance is central to any vision of bringing contemporary economies under democratic control. This paper is an initial effort to conceptualize a series of feasible reforms that could incrementally weaken the power of incumbent financial institutions while helping to facilitate economic development that is more egalitarian and sustainable. While the focus is on the US economy, the specific ideas have relevance in other national contexts. The core of (...) the reform idea is to mobilize a combination of governmental supports and grassroots entrepreneurialism to create an expanding network of nonprofit financial institutions that would redirect household savings to finance clean energy, growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, and infrastructure. (shrink)
There have been significant changes in what economists include in the category of investment over the last six decades. The US government agency that compiles national income date, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, has tried to keep up with these changes, but it has not succeeded. The resulting tension between economic theory and official data can be overcome by adopting a different theoretical lens. Work on social reproduction and social investment suggests a more coherent definition of investment than that offered (...) by mainstream economists. The paper then contrasts the measurement of investment in the government data with a calculation of investment derived from this new approach. The results show that business investment is dwarfed by the combined investment made by government and households. This finding suggests that business investment is not the key engine that powers the economy. This has significant implications for economic and social policies. (shrink)
To be fair to Robinson, it is worth mentioning that he does offer a number of qualifications to his thesis. He tries to avoid excessive determinism and at one point suggests:A satisfactory account should not imply an evolutionary notion and should leave open the possibility of historic discontinuities and of contingencies that generate alternative pathways of development, including alternative futures.In other words, maybe this embryonic TNS will never progress beyond its current stage or perhaps it will continue to grow but (...) it will never become a real state. But the main thrust of Robinson’s account is strongly deterministic. In fact, he does not consider a single factor that might impede the unity of the global bourgoisie or derail transnational state formation.In a sense, Robinson’s mistake is that he has tried to derive a theoretical solution to a concrete problem that global capitalism has not yet solved in practice. While it might well be a logical step for capitalist elites to create a Transnational State, it is always risky to attribute too much rationality to an order that is notorious for its contradictions. (shrink)
This introduction explains the logic of bringing together the perspectives of Hyman Minsky and Karl Polanyi to analyze processes of financialization. Although Minsky and Polanyi have very different intellectual trajectories, there are important complementarities in their approaches. The introduction also explains the focus of the three papers in this special section written by Kurtuluş Gemici, Lucas Kirkpatrick, and David Woodruff.
This essay, written in memory of Erik Olin Wright, outlines nine characteristics of a future socialism. It elaborates socialism as a set of processes and institutional arrangements that would open the way to a society that is radically more democratic, more just, and more sustainable than the existing order.
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. (shrink)
Cet article a déjà paru dans Dissent, Spring 2014. Nous remercions Margaret Somers et Fred Block, ainsi que la revue Dissent, de nous avoir donné l'autorisation de le reproduire sur RHUTHMOS. On le trouvera en ligne également ici. In the first half century of Dissent's history, Karl Polanyi almost never made an appearance in the magazine's pages. On one level this is surprising, because Polanyi was a presence in socialist circles in New York City from 1947 through the mid-1950s, the (...) period of (...) - Sociologie – Nouvel article. (shrink)
This article introduces the articles and commentaries in the special issue titled “Democratizing Finance.” Here, the term “democratizing finance” focuses on reducing inequalities of income, wealth, and power.