Another great transformation or common ruin?

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In the aftermath of the 1930s Great Depression, and as the Second World War was drawing to a close, Karl Polanyi concluded a critical analysis of market capitalism on an optimistic — and with the benefit of hindsight we can add premature — note, remarking that the ‘primacy of society’ over the economic system had been ‘secured’. Eighty years later, amidst the unresolved turmoil of another comparable global capitalist economic crisis and accumulating signs of a growing environmental crisis, both a direct legacy of the operation of the ‘market economy’, the remedy advocated by governments and policy-makers is effectively a return to ‘business as usual’. Notwithstanding various manifestations of public expression of dissatisfaction with the consequences of global ‘free-market’ capitalism, which include increasing inequality, poverty, unemployment, depletion of scarce natural resources, environmental destruction, pollution and waste, the default policy setting remains to restore global economic growth, to generate further increases in production and cultivate ever-rising rates of consumption, even if the risk is ‘common ruin’. However, there are a number of realistic, progressive and radical alternatives proposed by critical analysts, including a political program for ‘de-growth’ , a reinvention of communism and detailed policy proposals outlining the measures necessary to promote a transition to a ‘post-capitalist’ society with a sustainable economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-151
Number of pages21
JournalTheory, Culture & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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