The Double Movement’s Continuum

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Tijo SALVERDA, University of Cologne, Germany
Karl Polanyi’s double movement continues to provide a useful concept for understanding different forces in the organisation of capitalism, even though he himself was relatively pessimistic about the successes of the countermovement. In reality, outcomes appear more varied and often less apocalyptic than Polanyi envisioned. To better understand the limits and potential for transforming capitalism, I argue that portraying the double movement as a stark dichotomy between market representatives and its countermovement may not be very helpful. Instead, the double movement is often a continuum from pro-market fundamentalists, to more liberal market representatives, to actors that are only marginally critical of market society, to the fiercest anti-capitalist critics. To understand (the lack of) transformation, it is important to acknowledge the varieties and interactions within and between actors on the different sides.

Starting from my research on large-scale land acquisition in the Global South, yet also discussing many other expressions of market society, I argue that to explain outcomes we have to particularly include the (potential) impact of ‘extreme’ forces on both sides of the continuum – i.e. market fundamentalists and anti-capitalist critics. These forces may often not accomplish their aims, yet due to their vocal presence they may pull outcomes towards more or less equal distribution. In a strict sense, Marx’s and Hayek’s hopes may not have become realities, yet they have strongly influenced past and current realities of capitalism. With Hayekian thinking having the upper hand in recent decades, transformation will accordingly only come from fierce opposition able to persuade large parts of the continuum of letting capitalism work for the many and not for the few. This opposition, I furthermore argue, needs continuous attention, because countering capitalism will probably always remain ambiguous and unfinished – yet we may nevertheless accomplish fairer outcomes than we currently do.