The liberal myth: a critique

Karl Polanyi´s critic of the liberal myth and of the disruptive forces of the market society is inspiring to analyze the impacts of neo-liberal policies on livelihood conditions. The centrality of the market entails that “Nothing must be allowed to inhibit the formation of markets, nor must incomes be permitted to be formed otherwise than through sales”, as Polanyi warned in the middle 1940s. In other words, labour, land and money turn out to be seen as commodities and are produced for sale. As the commodity fiction proves to be the vital organizing process, the self-regulated markets demand the institutional separation of society into an economic and a political sphere. In other words, in the market society the social relations are embedded in the economy rather than the economy embedded in social relations.


The systemic and institutional analysis proposed by Karl Polanyi is a crucial reference to apprehend the cultural challenges to the evolution of the market economy in the 21st century. The outcomes of the expansion of the disembedded capitalism revealed that the tensions emanating from the market zone -deflationary pressures on spending, employment and earnings- have been extended to the political sphere and shaped different patterns of social inclusion. The decisive driven-forces to institutional change – that stimulated the acceleration of the financial and trade integration into the global order – have been related to the commodification of money and enhanced further cultural modifications by shaping new elites and dismantling reciprocity interrelations.




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