In The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique Fred Block and Margaret R. Somers did a superb scholarly work, sagaciously encountering readers with a powerful intellectual legacy of Karl Polanyi through their insightful analysis of his writings, especially of his masterpiece The Great Transformation. The result is a lucid, engaging, and illuminating book that we are delighted to award the Best Book in Economic Sociology and Political Economy for 2014.
“The ghost of Karl Polanyi is stalking Davos“, rightly observed The Guardian’s economics editor Larry Elliot two years ago at the World Economic Forum meeting. Polanyi’s fundamental scientific contribution was in stultifying and debunking the myth of “free market” capitalism and an erroneous idea of “self-regulating markets” — therefore it is not so surprising why this book has resonated in Davos’ lounges following the turbulent 2011 full of social protests around the world.
Polanyi research dealt with the developments in Britain in the 19th and 20th century, as well as non-Western arrangements and social processes. In their excellent book, Block and Somers masterly situated Polanyi’s thinking in our turbulent times and related it to the events that have taken place since the publication of The Great Transformation in 1944.
Gianfranco Poggi (University of California, Berkeley) discusses in this review article the main arguments and themes of The Power of Market Fundamentalism, focusing on Polanyi vs. Marx comparison, the market-centered conception of the social process, the New Poor Law of 1834, and Polanyi’s critique of Malthus.
Antonio Gramsci once famously stated: “The history of education shows that every class which has sought to take power has prepared itself for power by an autonomous education. The first step in emancipating oneself from political and social slavery is that of freeing the mind“. The plentiful scholarship of Karl Polanyi and Block and Somers’ interpretative successful endeavour to bring it to the public and academics take us a big step closer to achieving this essential goal, striking market fundamentalism, economicism and neoliberalism.
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[…] the canonical The Great Transformation (1944) – have constantly inspired students and scholars (including the writer of these lines) and intellectually propelled the development of disciplines […]