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Michael Polanyi's Economics: A Strange Rapprochement


  • Agnès Festré

    University of Nice Sophia Antipolis)


In this paper we provide an analysis of Michael Polanyi's contribution to economics. We stress two major influences on Polanyi's economics: first, Hayek's opposition to central planning and his defence of self-organization as a superior mechanism for coordinating individual plans; second, Keynes' macroeconomic disequilibrium approach to the adjustment of savings and investment that called for government intervention. Polanyi blent these two influences and provided an idiosyncratic synthesis, which is an unfortunately neglected contribution in the field of economics. Moreover, we show that this synthesis is consistent with two important features of Polanyi's intellectual background: on the one hand, liberalism, which entailed two overlapping notions of freedom (traditional private freedom together with public liberty); on the other hand, his humanistic end-oriented type of evolutionism tainted with Catholic ideas. The paper highlights that these two features go hand in hand with Polanyi's view of tacit knowledge, which shapes his original and rich reflection about institutions.

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  • Agnès Festré, 2015. "Michael Polanyi's Economics: A Strange Rapprochement," GREDEG Working Papers 2015-36, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), Université Côte d'Azur, France, revised Oct 2018.
  • Handle: RePEc:gre:wpaper:2015-36

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lee C. Spector & T. Norman Van Cott, 2007. "Textbooks and Pure Fiscal Policy: The Neglect of Monetary Basics," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 4(1), pages 60-70, January.
    2. Agnès Festré & Pierre Garrouste, 2009. "The economic analysis of social norms: A reappraisal of Hayek’s legacy," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 22(3), pages 259-279, September.
    3. Jacobs, Struan, 1999. "Michael Polanyi's Theory of Spontaneous Orders," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 11(1-2), pages 111-127.
    4. Nicolò De Vecchi, 2003. "The Place of Gestalt Psychology in the Making of Hayek's Thought," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 35(1), pages 135-162, Spring.
    5. M. Polanyi, 1940. "Economics by Motion Symbols," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 1-19.
    6. Struan Jacobs, 1999. "Michael Polanyi's Theory of Spontaneous Orders," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 11(1), pages 111-127, January.
    7. Oäžuz, Fuat, 2010. "Hayek on tacit knowledge," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 145-165, June.
    8. Pierre Garrouste, 1999. "Le problème de la cohérence de l'évolutionnisme hayékien," Post-Print halshs-00274290, HAL.
    9. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 1991. "Hayek's Theory of Cultural Evolution: An Evaluation in the Light of Vanberg's Critique," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 67-82, April.
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    More about this item


    Michael Polanyi; Hayek; Keynes; spontaneous order; State intervention; liberalism; evolutionism;

    JEL classification:

    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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