Karl Polanyi’s masterpiece The Great Transformation was written during the Second World War and published in 1944, but the relevance and importance of this preeminent book has continued to grow. 75 year later, The Great Transformation — an admirable treatise debunking the false creed of economic determinism and market fundamentalism, and elaborating on their hazardous ramifications — remains fresh and enlightening, and it is indispensable for understanding the current phenomena of our turbulent time. The book was slow in arriving at public and scholarly domains, but has kept on surfacing and then gradually become a canonical text and highly influential research in social science and humanities. Since the 1980s, this Polanyi’s classic work and his other writings have greatly inspired and impelled the rebirth and development of economic sociology, political economy and history of capitalism.
The International Sociological Association magazine Global Dialogue organized with the International Karl Polanyi Society a symposium to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Polanyi’s magnum opus. Authors of path-breaking books about Polanyi’s life and work, such as Fred Block, Gareth Dale, and Margaret R. Somers, and other scholars cover a wide range of topics, from a reflection on the context which was of relevance for The Great Transformation to the analysis of socio-economic and political developments of the last decades through Polanyi’s perspectives. The short articles included in this symposium are:
— “75 Years of The Great Transformation” by Brigitte Aulenbacher & Andreas Novy
— “Polanyi’s The Great Transformation at Seventy-Five” Fred Block & Margaret Somers
— “The Market as Statecraft: a Polanyian Reading” by Antonino Palumbo & Alan Scott
— “Polanyi, Accounting, and ‘Beyond GDP’” by Gareth Dale
— “Great Transformations: Marketizing East Asia” by Jonathan D. London
— “The Fear of Population Replacement” by Attila Melegh
— “The Road to Populism” by Chris Hann
— “The Enduring Legacy of Karl Polanyi” by Andreas Novy
(In addition to the English version, all these articles are available in 13 languages)
At the beginning of The Great Transformation Polanyi writes: “Nineteenth-century civilization has collapsed. This book is concerned with the political and economic origins of this event, as well as with the great transformation which it ushered.” As we are witnessing the erosion of the post-WWII 20th century foundations and order, Polanyi’s The Great Transformation is not just a timely read about the past but also a wake-up call regarding the future.
Immanuel Wallerstein noted once that “Karl Polanyi is a Titan among modern social theorists. He is always worth rereading. He forces us to think”. So delve into Polanyi’s books and collections:
— Polanyi, Karl. 2018. Economy and Society: Selected Writings. Polity Press.
— Polanyi, Karl. 2014. For a New West: Essays, 1919-1958. Polity Press.
— Polanyi, Karl. 2001. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Beacon Press.
The following excellent books are essential to understand Polanyi’s mutually embedded intellectual journey, scientific contribution and personal life:
— Block, Fred and Margaret R. Somers. 2014. The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique. Harvard University Press
— Dale, Gareth. 2016. Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left. Columbia University Press.
— Dale, Gareth. 2016. Reconstructing Karl Polanyi: Excavation and Critique. Pluto Press.
— Dale, Gareth. 2010. Karl Polanyi: The Limits of the Market. Polity Press.
— Polany-Levitt, Karry. 1990. Life And Work Of Karl Polanyi. Black Rose Books.