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Ulrich Brand, Christoph Görg and Markus Wissen

In recent years, manifold ways to deal with the ecological crisis are subsumed under the header “transition/transformation to sustainability” or even “Great” transformation. This chapter critically discusses the current debate from the perspective of a Polanyian understanding of a Great Transformation. The authors argue that the current debate suffers from a narrow analytical approach to transformation ignoring the dynamics of global capitalism and the power relations involved. Thus, a “new critical orthodoxy” of knowledge about transformation is emerging which runs the danger of contributing to ecologizing capitalism while ignoring the root causes of social-ecological crises. Based on Polanyi, but also on regulation theory, the authors distinguish between three types of transformation which focus either on an adaptation of the current institutional systems or on a new phase of green capitalism. Beside these two types, however, a post-capitalist Great Transformation requires more profound structural changes and exceeds the accumulation imperative as much as other structural constraints of capitalist development.

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Roland Atzmüller, Brigitte Aulenbacher, Ulrich Brand, Fabienne Décieux, Karin Fischer and Birgit Sauer

The chapter reflects on the transformation of capitalism we have witnessed since the 1970s, discusses the growing interest in Karl Polanyi’s masterpiece The Great Transformation and presents how the book refers to it. In particular, the economic liberalization through the post-1989 phase of globalization which resulted in the 2008/9 crisis of finance and subsequent austerity schemes has been accompanied by growing interest in Polanyian perspectives. In the first part of the chapter important strands of the discussion are recapitulated in regard to the strength of Karl Polanyi’s thought without neglecting the fact that it cannot be rediscovered and reread today without critical reflections and high attentiveness for its contextualization in time and space. The second part describes the composition of the book which combines historical and theoretical perspectives on Karl Polanyi’s work and capitalism in transformation, analyses contemporary developments in Europe and beyond and refers to the idea of “fictitious commodities” to understand the economic, ecological, social, cultural and political transformations of capitalism of “our time”.

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Capitalism in Transformation

Movements and Countermovements in the 21st Century

Edited by Roland Atzmüller, Brigitte Aulenbacher, Ulrich Brand, Fabienne Décieux, Karin Fischer and Birgit Sauer

Presenting a profound and far-reaching analysis of economic, ecological, social, cultural and political developments of contemporary capitalism, this book draws on the work of Karl Polanyi, and re-reads it for our times. The renowned authors offer key insights to current changes in the relations between the economy, politics and society, and their ecological and social effects.