Accepted paper:

An interrelated mix of environmental change, inequality and population growth: is Polanyi of any help?

Authors:

Tijo Salverda (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Starting from how market actors involved in land investments respond to their countermovement, I discuss (1) that Polanyi is too pessimistic about the countermovement and (2) that his principles may not point us in the right direction when we want to overcome our current ('overheated') predicament.

Paper long abstract:

Starting from research on how market actors involved in large-scale land investments (in Africa) respond to their countermovement, I will discuss (1) that Polanyi is too pessimistic about the countermovement and (2) that his principles may not point us in the right direction when we want to overcome our current ('overheated') predicament. Outcomes of Polanyian countermovements appear more varied and often less apocalyptic than he envisioned. The double movement is a perpetual reality of our (capitalist) world, with economies as temporary outcomes of never permanently settled, though at times dormant, power struggles over distribution. In many instances the outcomes are, like Polanyi observed, frightful, such as current examples of authoritarianism demonstrate. In other instances, however, countermovements help shaping more equitable outcomes, such as in the case of welfare states. It may never be perfect, it may never be enough, but it is always embedded. Yet even then, it seems that three main tensions in an 'overheated' world - environmental change, inequality and population growth - cannot easily be captured by, or seriously countered with, Polanyi's dichotomous double movement. Perfect redistribution alone will never halt environmental degradation and population growth. Instead, and following Chiapello (2013), it may be better to explore how a stronger focus on environmental issues may unite different actors (and sides of Polanyi's double movement) in an effort to fundamentally challenge dominant economic thinking. Only without a perpetual need for capital accumulation, a more environmentally sustainable and equal world able to host an ever-growing population may be envisioned.

panel P015
Forms of integration: redistribution and (market) exchange (roundtable)