Journal Article

The social aftermath of economic disaster: Karl Polanyi, countermovements in action, and the Greek crisis

Alexander E Kentikelenis

in Socio-Economic Review

Volume 16, issue 1, pages 39-59
Published in print January 2018 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online September 2017 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwx031
The social aftermath of economic disaster: Karl Polanyi, countermovements in action, and the Greek crisis

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  • Moral Philosophy
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Welfare Economics
  • Political Economy
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Abstract

The economic crisis in Greece resulted in high unemployment and the dismantlement of social protection policies. How does society respond to the collapse of both welfare-state and market mechanisms? I examine these issues through the study of one working class community in Athens over 2012–13. Since the onset of the crisis, my informants experienced a simultaneous drop in living standards, loss of social status, and debasement of their symbolic construction of reality. To respond to these pressures, they relied on a combination of material survival strategies, the reconfiguration of social resources, and the reconstruction of cultural imaginaries. To explain these findings, the article draws on Karl Polanyi’s analysis of countermovements to marketization and commodification. I argue in favour of augmenting the definition of countermovements to capture local-level responses, emphasising cultural aspects of social protection, and tracing the micro-foundations of countermovements that are nonetheless shaped by the macro-institutional context shaping action. This reading of Polanyi’s work seeks to integrate many moving—and potentially contradictory—parts into a holistic analysis of societal responses to rapid and radical socioeconomic change.

Keywords: Economic crises; Social change; Karl Polanyi; Unemployment; Welfare state; Greece; Z1 Economic Sociology; Z13 Economic Sociology—Social and Economic Stratification; I3 Welfare; Well-Being; and Poverty

Journal Article.  10432 words.  Illustrated.

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

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