Heterodox Economics Newsletter
What has happend on capitol hill last week can, in my humble view, be safely dubbed as a 'Polanyian moment'. In his famous Great Transformation Polanyi emphasized that the successive expansion of markets and the associated trend towards increasing commodification will eventually provoke 'countermovements' that – in some way or the other – stand ready to challenge the prevailing institutional and economic order. While for media commentators it might be surprising to see such a countermovement – especially such a scary version of it – rising in the US, which for some is an archetype for democratic governance, it is not at all surprising to a Polanyian observer. Indeed, this hypothetical figure would potentially have predicted such an upsurge exactly for the US, where the commodifcation of major dimensions of life & society, like labor, education, health and housing, has progressed further than in most other democratic countries.
Most of our mainstream colleagues will probably find the above argument obscure, at least because of the unfamiliar terms it employs, but probably also because of the long-term perspective this view implicitly takes. In my experience, mainstream economists often treat time as 'neutral' in the sense that they neglect the problem of socio-historical specifity as well as possibility of more long-term (cyclical) trends, which matters especially when the system operates quite slowly relative to the observers. This is not to deny, that our colleagues can say many smart things about how to consider time in a more narrow and more well-defined econometric setting, but most of these arguments operate on the a different level (although one should always mind the ergodic axiom ;-).
Aside from the role of time, also the concept of commodification is somewhat alien to our mainstream colleagues. In the conversations I had, the more open ones will try to rationalize your argument in their own theoretical terms. Typically this is achieved by combining some skill-biased technological change or Stolper-Samuelson-argument to envisage a situation of rising inequality, which is then complemented with relative income concerns or inequality aversion to arrive at a decrease in overall welfare. Although this reproduces a substantial fraction of the intended message, what get's lost in this story is that the expansion of markets is seen as something detrimental in the Polanyian account (although markets are not condemned per se), which is hard to accept, even for a short moment, if you are trained to equate the expansion of markets with an increase in overall efficiency & social welfare.
These experiences have taught me that inter-paradigmatic communication is often difficult to practice as it requires patience, mental flexibility and some knowledge on competing theoretical approaches on both sides. All too easily a gulf of understanding might emerge from such a constellation, even among mainstream authors: just think of the cold silence by which the economic mainstream treats Thomas Piketty's new book Capital and Ideology. While this book is surely contestable in some aspects (see e.g. here), Pikettys efforts to explicitly incorporate (a) a long-term historical view as well as (b) the Polanyian notions of commodification and social embeddedness seem laudable. At least to me, it is interesting and encouraging to see that some coherence between heterodox accounts and the perspectives of open-minded mainstream researchers can be established, especially when it comes to the 'big questions & challenges' of the 21st century.
All the best,
PS: Two posts below are closely related to the issues covered here: first, the ASE announcement in response to the capital hill events captures the gist of my conceptual argument in a more practical & applied tone. Second, the initiative Democratizing Work takes a more long-term view on these issues by proposing concrete reforms based on the idea of decommodifying work.
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Table of contents
- Call for Papers
- 15th Economic Policy International Conference (online, May 2021)
- 18th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons: “Our Commons Future”
- 1st History of Economic Thought Diversity Caucus Online Conference (online, May 2021)
- 85th Annual Conference of the Japanese Society for the History of Economic Thought (Osaka, Sept. 2021)
- 9th Graduate Seminar on the Future of Constitutional Economics (online, Feb. 2021)
- Association for Institutional Thought (AFIT) 2021 Meeting (April 2020, online)
- Oeconomia: Special Issue on "International Trade and Finance – Worlds Apart?"
- Oeconomia: Special Issue on "Women, Economics and History: Diversity within Europe"
- Regions in Recovery: Building Sustainable Futures - Global e-Festival (June 2021, online)
- Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE): 33rd annual conference on "After Covid? Critical Conjunctures and Contingent Pathways of Contemporary Capitalism" (Amsterdam, July 2021)
- Women, Gender & Research: Special Issue on "Sexualities and Critiques on Capital"
- Job Postings
- University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA
- Call for Nominations: HES Distinguished Fellow Award 2021
- Call for Nominations: Joseph Dorfman Best Dissertation Prize
- Call for Nominations: The 2021 Jörg Huffschmid Award
- Call for Submissions: AIT and AFEE 16th Annual Student Scholars Award Competition
- Winner Announcements: AFEE Awards 2021
- Ecological Economics 181
- Economic Thought 9 (2)
- Forum for Social Economics 49 (4)
- Historical Materialism 28 (4)
- Journal of Institutional Economics 17 (1)
- New Political Economy 26 (1)
- Oeconomia 10 (3)
- Science & Society 85 (1)
- Social Philosophy and Policy 37 (1)
- Books and Book Series
- "What is Political Economy?" - Consumption
- "What is Political Economy?" - Value
- A Southern Perspective on Development Studies
- China's Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption
- Corporate Conservatives Go to War: How the National Association of Manufacturers Planned to Restore American Free Enterprise, 1939–1948
- Crisis and Inequality
- Empire, Political Economy, and the Diffusion of Chocolate in the Atlantic World
- Humans versus Nature: A Global Environmental History
- Migration beyond Capitalism
- Planetary Mine – Territories of Extraction under Late Capitalism
- Raya Dunayevskaya's Intersectional Marxism
- Tea War – A History of Capitalism in China and India
- The Exclusionary Politics of Digital Financial Inclusion – Mobile Money, Gendered Walls
- The New Environmental Economics Sustainability and Justice
- The Oxford Handbook of Social Networks
- The Political Economy of Inequality
- The SCOPUS Diaries and the (il)logics of Academic Survival
- Urban Displacements: Governing Surplus and Survival in Global Capitalism
- Heterodox Graduate Programs, Scholarships and Grants
- Call for Applications: Economic POlicies for the Global transition (EPOG+) master's programme
- Call for Applications: The International Max Planck Research School on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy doctoral program
- Calls for Support
- Democratizing Work – Express your support & view past achievements
- For Your Information
- ASE Statement on the recent assault on the Capitol Building