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Karl Polanyi's 'Great Transformation' and Development Politics

of: Moritz Deutschmann

GRIN Publishing, 2006

ISBN: 9783638565769 , 12 Pages

Format: PDF

Copy protection: DRM

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Price: 12,99 EUR

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Karl Polanyi's 'Great Transformation' and Development Politics


Essay from the year 2006 in the subject Politics - International Politics - Topic: Development Politics, grade: 1,3 (A- in the American system), University of California, Berkeley (Department of Political Science), course: Course in development politics (Prof. Kiren Chaudhry), 5 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Attempts to understand the transformation processes in the developing world have often led to a closer examination of Europe's and America's own history, as many theories of development suggest a specific interpretation of these histories: Modernization theorists, for example, see Europe's and America's history mainly as a straightforward progression towards welfare and democracy, eclipsing the aspects that do not fit into this picture, like the World Wars or the American Civil War. Therefore, although Karl Polanyi's 'The Great Transformation' treats mainly historical events in Europe, it can at the same time be an important contribution to our understanding of the economic and social transformations in the developing world. In this essay, I will first try to make clear, what assumptions underlie Polanyi's argument and what he means by the notion of 'market society'. I will proceed in three steps: first, I will explore the different roles that the economy, according to Polanyi, plays in capitalist and pre-capitalist societies; I will look then at the historical processes that led to the rise of a 'market society'. Finally, I will discuss the political reactions to these processes which can be characterized, in Polanyi's view, by a 'double movement'. As Polanyi is one of the most important critics of economic liberalism, it is helpful to compare his account of the 'Great Transformation' to a second, even more influential anti-liberal perspective, Marxism. Apart from some similarities, the fundamental difference seems to be that Polanyi does not give a positive account of modernization. This leads to the question, how Polanyi's theories can improve our understanding of development today. I will mainly argue that although Polanyi gives an impressive account of the limits of a market economy, his treatment of politics is much too loose to be convincing.