Karl Polanyi's Institutional Theory: Market Society and Its "Disembedded" Economy
A fundamental principle of Karl Polanyi's institutional outlook is that any economic system has to be considered as a whole and as a historically specific social organization. This principle implies a comparative method and a critique of conventional economics. Besides, the problem of the interrelation between the economic system and other aspects of social life cannot be avoided. On this basis, Polanyi points out the peculiar "economic" nature of the market-capitalist society and explains the institutional transformations characterizing its history. The opposition "embedded/disembedded," used by Polanyi to distinguish pre-modern economies from the market economy, has been widely adopted in recent times, particularly by economic sociologists, as a key for understanding current complex economic phenomena. However, the reference to Polanyi often presupposes a distorted interpretation of his theory, and a different kind of institutional approach.
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