Home > The Economics Profession > Summary of the Great Transformation by Polanyi

Summary of the Great Transformation by Polanyi

from Asad Zaman

reposted from the WEA Pedagogy Blog

An earlier post by Mady provided an introduction to Polanyi’s classic work The Great Transformation. This book is crucial to understanding both HOW and WHY we need to re-structure economic education today. Unfortunately, the book is quite complex, a bit dry and technical at times, and consequently hard to follow. Although many leading economists have praised it, I did not see any glimmer of understanding of its central arguments anywhere in orthodox arena. Even among heterodox economists, it is not frequently mentioned or cited.

Mostly for the purposes of understanding it for myself, I set out to write a compact summary of the key arguments in the book. The central theme of the book is a historical description of the emergence of the market economy as a competitor to the traditional economy. The market economy won this battle, and ideologies supporting the market economy won the corresponding battle in the marketplace of ideas. I quote from the introduction of my article:  read more

  1. sergio
    September 5, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I am sure that those who say “free market!!” or “market economy!” thousands of times (neoclassicals) simply have no idea of what market is. We have empire of models, laws and theorems but we dont have Theory of the Market. They dont know what is market. Economics is dominated by very very very primitive vision of market. Particularly, I see NO market in neoclassical economics. It is not about free market, it is not about market at all. They dont even have entrepreneur there! What they impose on us not market economy at all. It is just different version of planning.
    I think your post is just natural reaction of the victim of brutal tyrannic charlatans, as many of us are.

  2. Bruce E. Woych
    September 5, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Your Five points (read more) on the extended article are brilliant.

    This is one of the best summations I have ever seen on this great work. Now…if we can only get the current “Global” perspective to take it to task and apply it to the contemporary world economy interlaced with localized and regional variations that are involved and being homogenized into colonialized financial markets, we might see the Great Transformation in 21st Century formation (and deformation).

    (from above)
    ” Although many leading economists have praised it, I did not see any glimmer of understanding of its central arguments anywhere in orthodox arena. Even among heterodox economists, it is not frequently mentioned or cited”
    Perhaps this is the start of a Polanyi revival long overdue!
    The full article can be downloaded from the link below:
    “The Rise and Fall of the Market Economy,” Review of Islamic Economics, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2010, pp. 123–155

  3. September 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    To me, the article represents a sweeping and unjustifiable generalization about markets. There are so many statements I disagree with that I don’t even want to start discussing them. It would be helpful if the discussion starts with a definition of what is a market.

    Everyone uses markets everyday and many work just fine. It would be more helpful to understand why some markets fail and in particular, why over dependence on financial markets to allocate capital has proved to be disastrous.

    • Philip
      November 23, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      Why on earth do you think that we can understand why some markets fail without understanding also why some succeed? We have to first understand what markets are, how they are put together (and they are put together) before we can even begin to realistically answer the question of why markets fail. Economics doesn’t really know what markets are – that’s the sad (and kind of funny) thing. This isn’t a question that can be answered at the level of abstract theory (and thus of abstract definitions, perhaps) but has to be answered sociologically and historically. Hence the importance of Polanyi’s book.

  4. Anne Mayhew
    September 5, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    This is a good summary of Polanyi’s major argument. Many critics of Polanyi have pointed out that markets are ancient but this he knew (as is illustrated in his work on trade and market in ancient empires. What he was talking about in The Great Transformation was the system of integrated markets that developed over centuries in western Europe and spread to the north Atlantic community. By the late 18th and 19th centuries this system of integrated markets had become, because of technology, law, and political processes, increasingly self-regulating. It was this SRM (self-regulating market system) that created the problems that Polanyi describes and that prompted the reaction that was part of a double movement toward both liberalization and regulation of commerce.

    Much of English economic thought of the 19th century, that thought which has become enshrined in our standard textbooks, was an idealization of how such a self-regulating market system would work. It was, as Polanyi said, a utopian scheme and remains so. And, much of the good literature of political economy is about the reaction to the system that resulted from the treatment of labor (aka people), land (aka the natural world), and capital (aka the power of bankers) as factors of production and nothing more.

    My only strong objection to Zaman’s summary of Polanyi is to his 5th point. Through increasingly democratic processes in much of the north Atlantic community, the self-regulating market came to be equated with economic progress during the 19th century and was willingly adopted. Of course, with 100+ years separating us we can see that much of the progress of that century came from technological change, the adoption of which was only uncertainly tied to the spread of the SRM. To call the arguments for free trade, both domestic and international, “deception” seems to me anachronistic.

  5. Norman L. Roth
    September 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Sept. 05, 2013

    I, for one, find Assad Zaman’s “summary” of THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION almost surreal in its, [hopefully not] wilful negligence of the most basic facts about the identity of its author. I also suspect his ‘scholarly’ perspective on human affairs generally, and economic history in particular, has gelled into a rather strange aspic of conspiracy theories…. Possibly derived from two sources. Marxism and a certain religious orthodoxy. Not such strange bedmates when one thinks about it. As the great Keynes would have recognized…And did in his own time.
    M. Zaman, Do you really believe that human political life is basically the rivalry between competing conspiracies? [That would explain a great deal of the irremediable & ‘bloody-minded’ societal disintegration that afflicts about one seventh of the human species.]
    For example:
    Not once did Mr. Zaman mention that the author of this “classic” marxoid” inversion of Economic history is Karl Polanyi:Not his far more respected brother Michael Polanyi. Who was accomplished in both Physical Chemistry as well as Economics. I strongly suggest that Mr. Zaman & other likeminded individuals, read Michael Polanyi’s “THE TACIT DIMENSION” 1967, Based on the 1962 Terry Lectures at Yale U. And cited in the bibliography of TELOS & TECHNOS on page 195 of the first [197 page] edition.There you will find out what “Tacit knowledge” [not ‘information’] really means, As well as its relationship to the evolution of human markets, which are far more natural, practical & pristine than the fallacy of “Planned” economies, which can only be enforced by totalitarian socialism. And inevitably end in equalization of misery, often famine, & always human despair. That’s where his brother, Karl’s romantic fantasies led. I have also noted on occasion, a certain conflation in your ranks, of “neoclassical economics” with “neo-liberal” economics. Nothing could be further from the truth. Neoclassical economics is the still dominant & obfuscating paradigm of academe: Whose practitioners often overlap with Marxism . And, who so often stagger into the hate-it-all “school” of “market fundamentalism” [whatever that means?]…. in their dotage. Examples abound. No wonder, Geoffrey Martin Hodgson, the doyen of Evolutionary economics, commented that: “Neoclassical ” economics is neither pro-market, nor anti-market. They have no adequate theory of markets. Instead of associating the neoclassical economists with markets, It would be more accurate to say that they were blind to markets”. Sergio, whoever you are, you scored a near bull’s eye on that one ! But the marxoids wrote the book on “brutal tyrannic charlatans”. Try a visit to Cuba for first-hand experience of the fossilized, but still pig-headed version.
    Neoliberal economics” is used in certain circles as a synonym for the “Austrian School of Economics”, of which Michael Polanyi was a major thinker: Along with Hayek, Mises, Menger, Lachmann, Von Wieser [opportunity costs] et al. This is the school of economic thought, which despite its own limitations, divisions & flaws, understands how markets are the consequences of our human natures & inextricably linked to the rule of law, live & let live liberty, spontaneous ordering, and improvement of our material prosperity. Interested readers should also consult Bruce Caldwell’s, HAYEK’s CHALLENGE, also cited in the bibliography of TELOS & TECHNOS.
    Thank you for your patience. Please don’t take any of the preceding personally…Only didactically.

    Norman L. Roth, Toronto, Canada.
    Please GOOGLE [1] Technos, Norman Roth [2] Origins of Markets, Norman Roth
    [3]Economics of Technology, Norman Roth, [4] TELOS & TECHNOS, Roth.

    • sergio
      September 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Neoclassical economics is simply radical anti-state ideology. Neoclassical economists envy planners. They want to be optimizers of economy. It is hidden but clearly seen agenda in neoclassical economics. Pro-capitalist version of Marxism. I recommend you to look at countries-victims of Washington Consensus. How Friedman is different from Trotsky?
      Austrian economics is trying to understand market but in doing so they over-idealize market and defends it utopical version.
      I am just realist – I am pro-market, pro-state and pro-social. I am trying to understand market as it is – as social institutionally evolutionary construct. Very complex and very live construct. Which can hardly be described by primitive neoclassical equations. Neoclassical equilibrium vision is very primitive. Even if they make it looks like dynamic (nonsense), general (why?), stochastic (ignorance).
      People will soon realize that all that time charlatans “pro-market Che Guevaras” were foolishing them with stupid equations with the only goal not to understand market or reality but just to promote anti-state ideology.

    • Philip
      November 24, 2013 at 9:49 am

      It’s a summary – a very, very short summary. I don’t think anyone’s saying that Karl Polanyi had all the answers, only that his is a voice that should be rediscovered. The contrast between the brothers Michael and Karl is a very interesting one. Michael, who went on to be part of the Mont Pelerin society with Hayek, von Mises, Friedman, et al. Karl whose Soviet sympathies were indeed exposed as naive and misguided. But then have Michael’s sympathies for neoliberal capitalism not been exposed as misguided and naive too? What would he think of the state of the world now as those liberal ideas have been transformed into a world dominating, world destroying ideology in their own right? Your rush to judgement is revealing, sir. Simply saying that Michael was a ‘serious thinker’ (implying that Karl was not) just displays ideological prejudice, nothing more.

  6. Robert Locke
    September 6, 2013 at 6:47 am

    This endless discussion of the efficacy of markets is a waste of time, especially when the problem lies in the distribution of wealth — those who have no money cannot participate well in consumer markets. How the accumulated wealth is paid out and to whom is the problem that nobody wants to discuss because it brings up the subject of the constitution of the firm.

    • December 31, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      I’m late to this discussion, because I’m late to this blog. Nonetheless, I agree with Robert. We just keep going round and round arguing over which of the 2 different heads to the same problem has greater validity, while achieving nothing in the balance — save the opportunity to expound upon our own self conceived wisdom.

      Is it society that should have priority over the individual or should it be the individual who has priority over society? That is the question we should be debating here, not all the rest of this dribble. And, it is not a complicated problem. In fact, the answer is quite simple. The individual can exist without the need for society, but society cannot exist without the individual. Hence, there is a natural priority in evidence here — or, a truism. Whether we find it amenable or not, one comes before two in all linear constructions of thought. And, unless someone has come up with some other magical way of thinking, that’s the end of it. Debate closed!

      It is only a short hop skip and a jump to apply fundamental math to market conjecture. Here’s how to do it! If you would NOT want to be the least of those subjected to your chosen methodology, then wherein lies your justification for believing that it is OK to foster it upon another? We need to get real here people, it isn’t OK! So, stop advancing this dribble and alter your thinking accordingly.

      It is true that linear thought progresses from singularity to multiplicity by way of relational conjecture. It is also true that this progression INITIALLY favors the idea that the greater “good” is serviced by capitulation to a social edifice comprised of multiple representations of one’s self. In practicality though, this lie is responsible for close to a BILLION people meaninglessly sacrificing their lives for sporadic moments of disillusionment — long before their lives would have otherwise ended. You would think that we might have learned from all this, but we haven’t. Thus it continues. What a dumb difference we humans have proved to be — and, how easy it has become for us to subscribe to “collateral damage” when we are not the ones being damaged.

      What form of deception lives among you? Is your conceptualization of society’s importance SELF affirming or not? This is the question that each needs to ask of themselves. For, the substance of your morality and ethics and whatever justification they can afford you (for your questionable existence) hangs in the balance. For me, even guilt by association is not something that I want hanging over my head. You can point to the benefits of societal structure any way you want — but, they all rest upon varying degrees of forced acquiesce with the promise of crumbs falling from the table of the self proclaimed gods of economic enlightenment — crumbs mindless proffered to the mindless as justification for constraining them during the “elites” continued ascension. Does this remind anyone of Reagan economics?

      How have we risen to this degree of debasement? The cause is undoubtedly linked to the expansion of communication and the truth it is able to suppress. Practicality seems to suggest that the answer lies in what “reality” permits — “let markets find their equilibrium.” What a farce that turned out to be. Here, at the apex of our supposed enlightenment, we sit on the verge of self extinction (see: http://www.edenorg.com/edp-001b.htm). So much for that idea.

      Theorists (perhaps with slightly more insight) prefer to conceptualize a means by which to optimize a desired result. But, in so doing, they have proved willing to throw the baby out with the bath water. As a result, theory seldom lends itself to a smooth transition into reality. This causes their impotence to be on display for all to see. The combined effect from the failure of both approaches is that humankind has now become disillusioned and apathetic. This makes for fertile ground upon which the self absorbed find occasion to feed the emptiness within themselves with more of what they don’t need and therefore cannot get enough of — materialism. Hence, we are now faced with the ugly side of human nature and the weapons of mass destruction it has created in order to defend its untenably position. Thank god for the idea of “defense” and the “security” it guarantees. Or, is it “offense?” I keep getting the two mixed up. Small wonder when they are interchanged at the rate at which they are.

      We need a new paradigm here, and it must lend itself to global implementation within the time frame we have left to arrest self annihilation. It also must be focused on a new priority, since everything associated with “M.O,N.E.Y.” and what it can do, has proved impotent or self destructive. Fear is undoubtedly the beginning of wisdom. So, it is essential that the peoples of the world become aware of the immediacy of the threat facing them. What is needed next is a way to focus their concern upon the underlying intention that all living things naturally manifest — the need to survive. There exists an enormous brain trust on this site, but it is not being used for the right purpose. Ensuring one’s survival is a priority that trumps all else including intellectual banter. I feel the necessity to impress this conclusion upon those who appear to have lost sight of this truism. Instead of licking your wounds from being confronted, offer your help. Let’s work together to try and reverse this thing, before it’s too late.

      • davetaylor1
        January 1, 2015 at 3:38 pm

        Donald, I have much the same sense of urgency as you have about the end of our world, but let me introduce you to a brilliant writer, J M Greer, whose thesis is that we, like the Roman empire, are in for “The Long Decline” as resources run out. http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.uk/.

        This blog is always worth reading, but the article on “The Fragmentation of Technology” dated 3rd December 2014 is particularly original and profound. The theoretical framwork he uses is very similar to that I’ve referred to in my response to Robert. Likewise, his objections to people lumping all technologies together in one pot are similar to my mine about how economists refer to ‘the market’ or Egmont to ‘heterodox economics’.

      • January 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm

        In the quest for understanding you have theory, hypothesis and evidence. Of the three, evidence is by far the most compelling. Since I have yet to determine if an image can be contributed to this blog, I will try to convey the substance of its message.

        In a cartoon by Mr. Fish we see a bunk of stuffy old men mingling together with the following explanation of their purpose:

        “THE LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD GETTING TOGETHER AFTER HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF DISPLACING AND SLAUGHTERING ENTIRE POPULATIONS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, IRREVOCABLY DESTROYING THE PLANETARY ECOSYSTEM, FORCING THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THE WORLD INTO WAGE SLAVERY, COMMODIFYING EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY UNDER THE SUN, AND MAKING THE MEASURE OF A HUMAN BEING A QUESTION OF HOW SUCCESSFUL HE OR SHE IS AT SELF-CENSORSHIP, BOOT LICKING AND PROFIT GENERATION FOR THE UPPER CLASSES.” And, what are they doing at this little get together? “DECIDING TO FORM A COALITION OPPOSED TO EXTREMISM” of course.

        That’s just how bizarre all this really is. The only thing that would have made this cartoon more complete would have been a reference to the impending self annihilation that this mentality has wrought upon the earth. Perhaps someone would like to advance his/her economic theory to allow me to understand how we’ve got to where we are. And more importantly, what can be realistically done to make some meaningful difference here. If so, you would have my dying gratitude.”

        David, when time runs out, the tolerance for more debate needs to be silenced. It is then, that it is time to turn to viable solutions and not just more speculation. This talk, talk, talk is accomplishing NOTHING. You have to know that, even though you continue to participate in it. We need solutions and we need them NOW! You say you understand my sense of urgency. Buy, do you really? You and I are older, so we will probably not have to go through what is coming upon the earth for those who remain. Is this perhaps why the whole thing does not receive the urgency it should by you? Again, I have yet to receive any email from you. Can you explain that to me?

      • davetaylor1
        January 1, 2015 at 11:20 pm

        Because on the evidence of this letter, disregarding our need to develop know-how and a strong argument for gradualism to simply repeat your scary black-and-white conclusions, I would be wasting my time and further diluting my already over-wrought motivation. We’ve got to where we are as a result of human nature, for the economics of the Golden Calf are merely adult abuse of childish delight in Fool’s Gold.

        Incidentally, as a logical thinker rather than an emotional reactor I don’t agree that evidence is more compelling than theory grounded on the fundamentals of distinguishing and communicating, nor that – when time has run out – it is time to turn to viable solutions rather than to helping one’s neighbours get through it. The biggest help then may be the realistic – evidence based – hope that it is not for us the end of everything.

      • January 2, 2015 at 2:41 am

        I think you have finally put your finger on the problem David. The one I have been trying to address with my rather cryptic and what should have been sufficiently scary “black and white” conclusion. I’ve dropped the plural tense, because there is only one conclusion to which I keep pointing — the imminent self immolation of humankind. It’s obvious that you don’t like being brought face to face with this reality, since the “GRADUALISM” you embrace (nice word) and from which you apparently take some meaning and purpose, has obviously let you and everyone else down. How? By NOT providing a way to insure its own continuance. It’s bad enough that those unknowingly seduced into this diversion will have to suffer — but, its criminal that the innocent will be forced to suffer along with them. Why? Because apparently, the intellectually elite feel inconvenienced by having to try and come up with concrete solutions to anything. Instead, they feel content to live with their heads in the clouds.

        And while we’re at it, IF you feel it is “logical” to give a pass to that which is capable of robbing you of your ability to think, then you are in need of help. In short, it suggests an infinity (on some level) for intellectual suicide — a position that is logically indefensible. As far as the remainder of your paragraph is concerned, I have to admit that I am unable to follow it. Having spent the bulk of my life in engineering, it is rather evident to me that theory which lacks practicality is inherently meaningless when it comes to changing the real world. At best it serves only as a sort of mental gymnastics from which real world solutions have need to come.

        Finally, for the record, when “time has run out” whatever hope you may have of “helping your neighbors” will evaporate with it. If you really want to help them, it must be done before ‘time goes missing’ from the human equation Beyond that, stopping with just your neighbors constitutes a quantifiable anomaly, since the term ‘neighbor’ is not self limiting. What about everyone else who is deserving? Do we just forget about them?

      • davetaylor1
        January 2, 2015 at 9:04 am

        I’ve been face to face with your reality since the 1962 Cuban crisis and the 1972 book “Limits to Growth”. I’m going to treat these abusive comments with the contempt they deserve.

      • January 2, 2015 at 7:15 pm

        My intent has not been to abuse you David — and, I want to make that amply clear. I respect your intelligence, just as I do all the others who post on this site. Instead, my intent has been to try and wake you from your current slumber. It appears that you are inclined to sleep walk through life on occasion without realizing it. Whether you want to admit it not, there is always a consequence associated with one’s actions, be they overt or circumvential in nature. The fact that you have shown a thin skin in this exchange cannot be my problem. It is steel that sharpens steel not accolades. The value in the first is self evident. The value in the later is self depreciating.

        When I was much younger, I took on the responsibility of heading up an alcohol and drug program for my region. That experience taught me a lot about human nature and reality. Armed with considerable psychological theory and sufficiently versed in theology as well as philosophy, I believed that ideas could actually overcome physical predispositions and the vulnerabilities they evidenced. I was to learn that I very naive in that regard.

        Everyone is inherently insecure with good reason. We don’t know where we have come from, who and what we are, or where we are going. To offset this insecurity (that manifests as varying degrees of fear) we adopt modes of function to preoccupy ourselves. Most drown their fear in the excitement of physical immediacy. It takes the form of excess relative to food, alcohol, drugs, sex, perversion, religion, politics, societal committance, materialism, the arts, and yes, every form of study promoted by education when taken to the extreme. Everyone employs one or more of these preoccupations to try and allay their underlying insecurity. You seem to be able to rightly characterize all the ones I have mentioned as being counterproductive, except for your preoccupation with intellectual excellence. So, I think it is fair to say that it is your drug of choice.

        In dealing with individuals with addictive compulsive behaviors, or a tendency that has caused them to run amuck of the essentials necessary to insure their continuing access to freewill, a general tendency in them kept appearing over and over again. In short, it took the form of “Yes, but.” By employing this redirection, the addict seeks to divert attention from what needs to be done in the present to a reason for not doing it. A classic example burned into my memory came from confronting an alcoholic who was close to losing his grip on functionality and was thus facing incarceration. When presented with this fact, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I’m not like all the other drunks and addicts in this program, because I don’t have to drink. I drink because I want to drink.” This is the ultimate delusion that eventually defeats freewill, the belief in one’s choice to give it up.

        We can all agree that mankind is on a path to self destruction. Who is most responsible for this impending calamity is obviously an issue up for grabs. What goes unrecognized is that every contribution made by even the most “well intentioned” from among us, can be used by those who are not to facilitates a negative result. Move a pebble and you change the universe. In your case David, software design seems to hold a coveted place in your heart where your intellect found challenges and successfully overcame them, thus providing relative worth to you as compared to another.

        However, whether you intended it or not, the success of your contribution also found a home in the dark side of human behavior. And there, it helped to precipitate its onset. I never realized this when I helped to create generation after generation of mainframe computer. But since, I have come to realize it. And, if you have been following my posts I apologized for the same — not that it is going to change anything I’ve done — except to hopefully make another aware of the consequences of aligning themselves with the incessant onslaught of information.

        We are already in information overload in case no one recognizes it. This successfully precludes individuals from making relative decisions regarding the value of crucial specifics. The division in thinking on this blog constitutes a clear example of the underlying problem. Everything divisible by way of reflection is dichotomous in structure. Still, science, technology, and the computers that drive knowledge forward continue to be held by the uninformed to be the savior of mankind. How idiotic that conclusion has proved to be. In case you’ve forgotten, we’re but 4 minutes away from a nuclear exchange that could irrevocably alter the face of the earth and everything on it. And that is but only one of the many threat capable of doing the same.

        And, computers can’t help in this regard, because they are already imbued with enough misinformation to successfully obscure even the most carefully couched mathematical inquiries. Given our current problem, the only logical path still available to us is to disengage and attempt to find a way to buy additional time in this equation to come up with a real solution. That is all I ask and have continued to ask. For help in refining a realistic approach that can actually achieve something, not just more talk.

        In closing, I’ll again point to the word that you so graciously provided that sums up the misdirection that will eventually spell humanity’s demise. I’m referring to “GRADUALISM” or the justification to put off doing what one knows needs to be done, due to the presumption that immediacy is merely a fiction one can use to ignore. Thank god your wife’s condition and apparently your own was not addressed in this way, or both of you might be absent from this equation. Unlike theory, physicality comes with an infinite number of limitations whose demands MUST be met. Humanity has now been distilled down into a single individual who has developed a life threatening malady that needs immediate attention of it will die. Can you afford to deny it that attention when you and your offspring help to comprise it? Just something to think about.

    • davetaylor1
      January 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      “This endless discussion of me [Robert’s “the efficacy of markets”] is a waste of time.”

      For the record, my alleged “preoccupation with intellectual excellence” derives from a Christianity about being loved despite our imperfections, a Heaviside-based electronics which perforce learned to live with more than 20% tolerances on its physical components, Shannon’s information science in which to be efficient is to be as discriminating as you need to be, and Schumacherian economics in which “Small is Beautiful” if it is “adequate”.

      In our perplexity here, who else here has tried Schumacher’s “A Guide for the Perplexed”?

      • January 3, 2015 at 8:28 pm

        I can tell you’re feeling a little picked on David. If it’s any consolation to you, my remarks are not just aimed at you. They are aimed at EVERYONE on this site that has been deceived into thinking that words are a substitute for action when one’s life (and those they love) are being threatened.

        And, just in case you think I don’t love you, let me make myself perfectly clear. I do! And, I make a conscious effort to try and love ALL of mankind until they make it impossible to do so. If I didn’t, I would have never sacrificed my life to trying to understand my responsibility to it; and then, dedicated myself to engaging my fellow man in an attempt to try and turn around what has obviously become their march to the sea.

        You mention “Christianity, Heaviside-based electronics,” Shannon’s “information based science” and Schumacher’s “economics” all in the same sentence, as though there is some kind of implied imperative that they share. I find this a most peculiar association coming from anyone who recognizes the need for a monotheistic Deity. The last time I checked, it didn’t seem to me that IT was in need of any help. Perhaps you were just trying to throw a little more confusion into the pot to take the pressure off yourself. Whatever the case, let me switch gears.

        Approximately 3 years ago, a friend of mine was summoned to Los Alamos to consider the viability of creating a super computer capable of modeling the earth’s ecosystem. When he asked why the defense department would want such a thing, he was told that a new means of liberating energy had been discovered that was too dangerous to test in the real world. So, they wanted to test it against a model of the earth inside of a computer — to determine if it could be made into a weapon of war. When asked why anyone would even consider creating anything that dangerous to humankind, he was told… “Now that we know that the possibility exists, we are forced to follow through on determining its potential; for, if someone else comes up with it first, the rest of the world will be ripe for blackmail.” You’ve got to just love this extension of rationality. Let’s create a weapon that can destroy the earth, and then put it in the hands of politicians, so they save the earth with it.

        Obviously, this conclusion stemmed from someone deceived by his own rationality while holding to the principle of “GRADUALISM.” The only problem in this case is that the technology he was trying to implement spelled disaster for the very thing he sought to protect.

        This is the same problem that attends mankind’s movement into complexity. It seems perfectly logical to progress it, until control is lost. And then, it’s all about “opps, I’m sorry” provided there is anyone or anything left to say it to.

        They tried to encourage my friend to stay and help in the development of this “thing” — for want of a better word. But he declined. Shortly thereafter his company supplied the requested machine. Since then, computing power has grown significantly. So, who knows where what is currently at?

        The reason for relating this incident is to try and impress upon EVERYONE engaged in the advancement of complexity, that there is a real world price for what you are doing. Maybe you have no intent of imposing the possibilities evident in theoretical systems upon others; but instead, only want to know what they are. However, there are always those out there that can, will and do employ these discoveries of yours. It’s as though mankind is being drug with a hook in its nose to its final reckoning. And, it is all being done in the name of a process claiming to be the most rational way to prevent the same. In Eastern thought (Vedanta) this confusion is attributed to Maya — the principal deity that manifests, perpetuates, and governs the illusion and dream of duality in the phenomenal Universe.

        I’m not even going to suggest that I understand the implications of the information presented on the following site. And, I have no way of knowing if it has anything to do with the activities at Los Alamos. However, it could — since, weather control has been a focus receiving considerable attention by the military industrial complex as of late. Whatever the case, this information definitely bears your consideration. http://jimstonefreelance.com/fukushima1.html

  7. September 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Parchment in the Fire.

  8. September 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    To put my cards on the table, my analysis is most definitely derived from ‘Marxism’ – prefer to call it historical materialism – and I am not trained as an economist. I’m a historian and political scientist currently teaching IR. Anyone interested in viewing Polanyi’s impressive but flawed account of history from an historical materialist perspective should read Sandra Halperin, War and social change in modern Europe (Cambridge UP, 2004) which might best be described as a respectful debunking.

  9. September 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Market-shmarket. Just one of tools of society. The best hammer does not help, if nails are hammered in wrong places.

    A very dangerous tool, if it is good. The more powerful a tool is, the more dangerous it may become in unskilled hands or when wrongly applied. Both of which economists do 100 percent of time. Will the mankind survive this century?

  10. Bruce E. Woych
    September 9, 2013 at 1:36 am

    @Norman L. Roth
    “Any Sociology which accredits the beliefs on which a society is founded forms a justification for this society. And if the writer is a member of the society in question, his society is a declaration of loyalty to it. Indeed, consistency requires that in the affirmation of socially shared values our declarations should agree with our participation in any social activities based on the assumed validity of these affirmations. Yet it is precisely this consistency which renders the universal intent of such declarations suspect, since it shows that they lend support to established powers, after having been instilled in us by the very society which they vindicate (MICHAEL Polanyi: Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy 1958: p.219).”

    Essentially Polanyi is speaking towards an active confirmation bias that directs relativistic behavior in real time that creates a subjective foundation to what we claim and affirm as objective. In this regard, one might speculate that Michael Polanyi would argue that markets are real people making claims that cover their tracks and legitimate, ratify and justify their actions in rational terms. This is in polar opposition to true “objectivity” where human coherence is based upon establishing real patterns in Nature, patterns that extend indefinitely beyond experience (Ibid:37).

    There is no reason to believe that this does not fit well with Karl Polanyi’s social contextual established patterns for empirically based “substantive” designation for economic analysis (embedded for Karl: Tacit for Michael); as opposed to the “formalism” of economic presumptive theory for Karl, and subjective foundation of participatory rationality for Michael.

    In Anthropology the notion exists formally that the participant observer gets in their own way and must concede that interpretations are “tacitly” subjectively tainted and biased.

  11. July 2, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    I have recently written a paper analyzing the methodology implicit in Polanyi’s Great Transformation. This methodology is very different from any of the conventional methodologies currently in use in the social sciences, and offers a new way of looking at the world. Most importantly, it integrates the social, political and economic spheres, and suggests that they cannot be analyzed in isolation, as per current practice. See the WEA Pedagogy blog for more details:
    http://weapedagogy.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/methodology-of-polanyis-great-transformation/

  12. davetaylor1
    January 1, 2015 at 11:55 am

    @ Norman, Peter has referred much more politely than I would to Norman’s ideological (not to say religious) prejudice, so I’ll leave it at that.

    @ Robert, the point of Polanyi’s discussion is not the efficacy of markets but the institutionally embedded lies pretending that labour, land and money are marketable: equivalent to selling off bits of the computer which is providing our processing services. @”How the accumulated wealth is paid out and to whom is the problem that nobody wants to discuss because it brings up the subject of the constitution of the firm”, I accept the truth of your challenge, though it isn’t true of me. Simply in drawing a distinction between the real system comprising the firm and the quantitative information in the system of accounts I leave room for the possibility that the latter does not truly or even adequately represent the former; and in characterising the accounting system as a PID control servo, for the possibility that its control of the quantitative system has become so complete that it has morphed into feedbackless control of the money distribution, not the firm’s aims. That’s theory pointing out where to look. Here’s Polanyi (p.209) looking there: “Economic liberalism had started a hundred years before and had been met by a protectionist countermove, which now broke into the last bastion of market economy. A new set of ruling ideas superseded the world of the self-regulating market. To the stupefaction of the vast majority of contemporaries, unsuspected forces of charismatic leadership and autarchist isolationism broke forth and fused societies into new forms”. After Hitler came [in response to Norman] hayekoid Thatcher.

  13. blocke
    January 1, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    “Economic liberalism had started a hundred years before and had been met by a protectionist countermove, which now broke into the last bastion of market economy. A new set of ruling ideas superseded the world of the self-regulating market. To the stupefaction of the vast majority of contemporaries, unsuspected forces of charismatic leadership and autarchist isolationism broke forth and fused societies into new forms”. After Hitler came [in response to Norman] hayekoid Thatcher.”

    It is statements like this with which I have trouble because it ignores the history of capitalism in central Europe. which in the second half of the 19th century never adopted “the ruling ideas of self-regulating markets.” Capitalisim in Central Europe did not develop in a place which had undergone a lliberal-demoncraic revolution; autocracy set the tone. — the concept of organized capitalism, which let a visible hand of managers run the economy. Trying to make a market economy the rule, in an era when Germany was superseding laissez-faire liberalism is anachronistic. And it doesn’t apply to Japan either, and certainly not to China. Rudolf Hilferding’s Finance Kapitalism 1910, is a more insightful description of what was going on.

    • davetaylor1
      January 1, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      Obviously I’ll take this criticism seriously, but looking at the book I think what Polanyi is saying is consistent with Hitler’s “protectionist countermove” breaking into the last bastion of “market economy” – which I understand as the money market. Autocratic Germany countering the pseudo-democratic (reserve-banking-controlled) UK/US?

      • davetaylor1
        January 1, 2015 at 4:21 pm

        This from Fred Block’s (!) introduction. “For Polanyi the imperialist impulse cannot be found somewhere in the genetic code of nations; rather, it materializes as nations struggle to find some way to protect themselves from the relentless pressures of the gold standard system”.

      • blocke
        January 1, 2015 at 7:50 pm

        No problem with the Hitler discussion; I was just concerned with 19th century Germany, when beginning with Friedrich List neither German thinkers, nor the business community, nor the autocratic state took English classical economics and neoclassical as well, very seriously. Their Kartellized, organized form of Capitalism was different The change in Germany came after WWII because of he overwhelming influence of the Americans. Still, older German traditions persisted to make German thought and practice different from the Americans..

      • davetaylor1
        January 1, 2015 at 10:37 pm

        Thanks for this. What I know of German history comes from Catholic and technical sources rather than English curricula: the one authoritarian, the other logical rather than empirical. After the war the Christian as against imperial policies of Adeneur, Schumann and de Gaulle came to the fore, and while the American influence may have been building, I was only aware of it taking off when its trojan horse, Britain, was accepted into the EEC: the resulting adjustments leading to the change of focus from economic community to political union. Polanyi however was writing before this, and in 1944 his focus was perhaps after the period you are helping me understand. His thesis does seem to me highly relevant to the extreme reactions of both Marxists and Nationalists to the embattlement of their socialisms by imperialistic finance capitalists who – following the beheading of Britain’s King Charles 1st – keep their cowardly heads well below the parapet and muddy the waters by tarring everyone with the same brush: international critics, protesters, menders and innocent bystanders alike.

  14. Claudio
    October 1, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Speaking of Auschwitz, its methods were rooted in the great transformation, the advent of the market economy, discreet deaths, fast, and practically bodiless. More idea than corporeal, that’s why the Queen no longer tortures, or quarters, and why God gave us Romania.
    The soul is the body is what we learned in those chambers, metabolic, and what I like to call Mengele’s poetry.
    Still, Alabama is the best place to found a prison, because in Portland there aren’t enough black people to spin the per diem. All any government needs is your address, so I plan to die on a bus from Laredo to Washington, but my passport says Nunavut. Everyone needs cataloguing, is what the NSA learned from Germany, particularly if you’re not from around here.

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