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Different Class: How Free Can A Market Be?

Continuing on from Smith and Durkheim we now come to the work of Karl Polanyi. In our set of readings Polanyi's The Great Transformation is the first to advance a polemic explantion of a modern social and economic order.

Karl Polanyi [masked]) ranged across anthropology, philosophy and economic history and his book The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time brings these fields together in a work which sought to place modern free market economics in its social and political context. In doing so he contradicted what many modern economists had taken and do take as axiomatic: that markets are a natural by-product of society. In contextualising markets Polanyi was asserting that “laissez-faire was planned” and left open the possibility of there being another way of organising a society. He was most decidedly in favour of finding an alternative as he saw the contemporary arrangements of capitalism to be socially destructive.

Preliminary Reading

Polanyi, Karl, The Great Transformation (Chapters 4, 5 and 6).



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  • Andrew C.

    really enjoyed the discussion - also appreciate the effort put in by the organisers in leading the debate

    January 10, 2013

  • juliet

    I would like some help with the Situationalist philosophy which inspired the 1968 riots in France. I enjoyed reading Polayni because his exposition is so amazingly clear by comparison, but after Ch 5 I started asking "but..but..but" because he comes from the generation of thinkers that I was exposed to in university and is limited by that. Very limited. Are we going to look at the range of more complex contemporary analyses regarding ideology and markets?

    December 31, 2012

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