Tag Archives: market

Freedom, Community, Self: Insights of Karl Polanyi

“Life is man’s missed opportunity.” Although Karl Polanyi used these words to sum up Hamlet, they also encapsulate his sense after 1947 that capitalist society had forfeited a promising future – a liberating freedom in community. Yet perhaps the opportunity has not been forfeited but delayed. Polanyi’s insight into the connection among freedom, community and personal responsibility can still guide us. Continue reading

Market and State Have Failed: Community to the Rescue?

Of society’s three potential steering mechanisms, market and state have each proved disastrous as the preponderant principle for allocating resources, production and power. The closer societies approximate the self-regulating market system, the steeper the costs. We see those costs today in the form of high inequality and insecure jobs, environmental destruction, economic volatility in the form of periodic booms and busts, the dilution of democracy, and the rise of right-wing populism in a context of widespread anger. The directive state, in the form of bureaucratic collectivism (communism and state socialisms), state capitalism and top-down social democracy, has also proved defective. The dominant state has, at the least, stifled civil society and market forces with its paternalistic embrace; at its worse, it has fostered a new class within a totalitarian system. Where do we look for a progressive alternative? Continue reading

The Democratic Critique of Neoliberalism

This interesting reflection by William Davies assesses the contention that neo-liberalism, that much abused term, refers (using Karl Polanyi’s terms) to the highest stage of disembedding the economy from society. According to this view, homo economicus now reigns supreme in a national society and world in which economic calculations, especially the financial return on investments, are the only rational basis for decision-making in all spheres, including the university. With people reduced to human capital, nature to natural capital, knowledge to intellectual property and money to financial capital, society is fully subservient to the logic of the market. But, if this is the doctrine of neo-liberalism, is it also the existential reality? No, because the neoliberal vision is an utopian as the earlier liberal vision. A sustained effort to attain the vision will devastate human institutions and nature, leading to unpredictable and possibly deadly protective movements.

Six Reasons for Reading Karl Polanyi (Even If You Study the Global South): Part II

In addition to reading Karl Polanyi for his appealing normative stance and transdisciplinary approach, I am drawn to four other attractive features. Continue reading