Chapter 1: Work and Labour in Great Transformations
INTRODUCTION In 1944 three documents were published at about the same time. One was a book by Karl Polanyi, who in 1943 left a disorganized manuscript in the hands of two German friends in Vermont, where he had spent part of the Second World War, in order to hurry back to the east end of London to support his family by teaching. That book was The Great Transformation (Polanyi  2001). Although it had evident blemishes, the book had an early, respected life. But at the beginning of the twenty-first century it was to have a second life in the context of globalization. The book’s main message was that in the nineteenth century a market society had been actively promoted, led by financial capital, in what Polanyi saw as a systematic attempt to strip the institutions that had constrained market forces. As he put it, ‘Laissezfaire was planned’. The Great Transformation is less profound than other works dealing with the development of capitalism. Polanyi lacked a sense of class struggle. Moreover, his analysis was about the emergence of ‘welfare states’ and the prior reactions to the excesses of a ‘market society’, namely fascism and communism. But his concepts of ‘embeddedness’, ‘double movement’ and ‘commodification’ have proved immensely valuable for analysing current global changes. The second document was a book by Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Hayek, 1944). Like Polanyi, Hayek came from Vienna, but he saw freedom from a decidedly different perspective. Although widely rejected at the time, his...
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