A review of Gareth Dale’s “Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left”

At the Chronicle Review, I have a review of Gareth Dale’s welcome new biography of Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left.

We live in Polanyian times. In his classic The Great Transformation (1944), Karl Polanyi, an economic historian, argued that, contrary to free-market dogma, markets are never natural and are always created by states. “Laissez-faire was planned,” Polanyi wrote, but “planning was not.” The surprising success of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in 2016 made Polanyi’s work especially fresh and current. He argued that markets were corrosive to community life, reducing human beings to commodities, and called the spontaneous reactions of people to defend communities from the damage done by unfettered markets the “double movement.”

The global financial crisis increased interest in socialist ideas, as well as right-wing populism. Both can be seen as part of the “double movement.” “Fascism,” asserted Polanyi, “like socialism, was rooted in a market society that refused to function.”

Seems somehow relevant. You figure it out.

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