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The Great Transformation of Embeddedness: Karl Polanyi and the New Economic Sociology

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  • Beckert, Jens

Abstract

I argue that in its adaptation from Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation, the concept of embeddedness has itself undergone a great transformation. In the process, significant meanings of the concept have vanished, while others have been added. First I explore the different meanings the concept of embeddedness has achieved in the new economic sociology. Then I argue that it is not the embeddedness of economic action that should constitute the vantage point of economic sociology, but rather three coordination problems that actors face in economic exchange: the valuation of goods, competition and the problem of cooperation deriving from the social risks of exchange. I show that by proceeding from these coordination problems economic sociology, economic anthropology and economic history can find common research questions which allow them to enter into dialogue with each other more systematically. In the next section I focus on the social-reformist inclinations of Polanyi's use of the notion of embeddedness and thereby highlight a challenge posed in The Great Transformation that was largely not taken up by economic sociologists. Finally, I discuss limitations for developing a macro theory of the economy that result from making embeddedness the core concept of economic sociology.

Suggested Citation

  • Beckert, Jens, 2007. "The Great Transformation of Embeddedness: Karl Polanyi and the New Economic Sociology," MPIfG Discussion Paper 07/1, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:071
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    1. Beckert, Jens, 2000. "Economic sociology in Germany," economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 1(2), pages 2-7.
    2. Harvey, David, 2007. "A Brief History of Neoliberalism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283279.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maucourant, Jérôme & Plociniczak, Sébastien, 2011. "Penser l’institution et le marché avec Karl Polanyi," Revue de la Régulation - Capitalisme, institutions, pouvoirs, Association Recherche et Régulation, vol. 10.
    2. repec:kap:jcopol:v:40:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10603-017-9350-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Höpner, Martin & Schäfer, Armin, 2010. "Polanyi in Brussels? Embeddedness and the three dimensions of European economic integration," MPIfG Discussion Paper 10/8, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    4. Barry L. Isaac, 2012. "Karl Polanyi," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Economic Anthropology, Second Edition, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Streeck, Wolfgang, 2010. "E pluribus unum? Varieties and commonalities of capitalism," MPIfG Discussion Paper 10/12, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    6. Frerichs, Sabine, 2009. "The legal constitution of market society: Probing the economic sociology of law," economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 10(3), pages 20-25.
    7. Vargas-Hernandez, José G., 2014. "Reflections on the Impact of the New Economic, Sociological and Historical Institutionalism in Institutional Social Policy," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 202-215.
    8. Green, Mitchell, 2014. "Electrification in the Pacific Northwest and Problem of Embeddedness," MPRA Paper 59874, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Roth, Steffen, 2010. "Beyond the one best market: an essay on trans-economic exchange rates," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 66-79.
    10. Cardoso Machado, Nuno Miguel, 2011. "Karl Polanyi and the New Economic Sociology: Notes on the Concept of (Dis)embeddedness," MPRA Paper 48957, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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