The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

Polanyi, K. (2001). The Great Transformation: The political and economic origins of our time. Beacon Press [1944].


The Great Transformation examines the social and political changes that took place in England during the rise of the market economy. One of the primary conclusions Karl Polanyi makes, and something that differentiates him from Keynes and Hayek, is that the nation state and the newly formed market economy are not separate entities but are one object of human invention which he refers to as ‘the market society’. For Polanyi, this meant that any philosophy which sided with either market or state as the solution to our economic problems – for example, neo-liberalism on one hand or state socialism on the other – was likely to be simplistic. Free market capitalism is one of humanity’s greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilizing society as wealth rushes to the top. The time for action is running short.

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