Journal Article

Karl Polanyi and the antinomies of embeddedness

Kurtuluş Gemici

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 6, issue 1, pages 5-33
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online May 2007 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwl034
Karl Polanyi and the antinomies of embeddedness

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While Polanyi argues that all economies are embedded and enmeshed in social relations and institutions, he tends to see market economy as disembedded, which reveals a tension in his thought. The main motivation for this paper is to understand the origins of this tension. On the basis of a systematic formulation of Polanyi's work, it is argued that Polanyi employs embeddedness in a dual manner: (a) as a methodological principle akin to methodological holism, and (b) as a theoretical proposition on the changing place of economy in society. These two formulations of embeddedness contradict each other. After tracing out the origins of this contradiction, this paper concludes by considering the implications of this analysis for economic sociology. It is argued that embeddedness as a methodological principle is the only acceptable usage of the term. Yet, in this capacity, embeddedness falls short of economic sociology's goal of providing a theoretical alternative to neoclassical economics.

Keywords: embeddedness; economic systems; economic sociology; A12 relation of economics to other disciplines; B25 historical; institutional; evolutionary; Austrian history of economic thought; Z10 cultural economics; economic sociology; economic anthropology

Journal Article.  11269 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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