From the Great Transformation to the Great Financialization

On Karl Polanyi and Other Essays

By Kari Polyani Levitt  

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Four years into the unfolding of the most serious economic crisis since the 1930s, Karl Polanyi’s prediction of the fateful consequences of unleashing the destructive power of unregulated market capitalism on peoples, nations and the natural environment has assumed new urgency and relevance. The system of unregulated or free market capitalism has a propensity towards crisis, which is reflected in both the dynamics of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the advent of the new world order of neoliberal globalization of the 1980s, ushering in “the great financialization.”

The essays in this volume should be read against the background of the accelerating accumulation of global finance that created a series of financial crises in Latin America, Russia, Asia and, eventually, the heartlands of capitalism itself. This book probes into the dynamics of global capitalism, a system in crisis, by Kari Levitt, one of Canada’s premier development economists, with insights derived from a re-reading of the writings of her father, Karl Polanyi, one of the greatest economists of the twentieth century.

“The essays in this book provide a carefully crafted picture of ‘the life and times of Karl Polanyi,’ along with the relevance of his analysis for those of us living in different times.”

— Paul Bowles, University of Northern British Columbia

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  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Polanyi on Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy Transformations: Past, Present, and Future?
  • Hayek from Vienna to Chicago: Architect of the Neoliberal Creed
  • The Roots of Polanyi’s Socialist Vision
  • Back to the Future: The World Economic Crisis of the 1930s
  • Keynes and Polanyi: The 1920s and the 1990s
  • Leading Concepts in the Work of Karl Polanyi and Their Contemporary Relevance
  • Culture and Economy
  • Social Dividend as a Citizen Right
  • Part II: The Global South from Conquest and Exploitation to Self-reliant Development Structural Continuity and Economic Dependence in the Capitalist World System
  • Mercantilist Origins of Capitalism and Its Legacies: Decline of the West and Rise of the Rest
  • The Great Financialization
  • Development Economics in Perspective
  • Reclaiming Policy Space for Equitable Economic Development
  • Intellectual Independence and Transformative Change in the South
  • Postscript on Globalization and Development
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography


  • Kari Polyani Levitt

    Kari Levitt is Emerita Professor of Economics at McGill University, Montreal, and was George Beckford Professor of Political Economy at the University of the West Indies, Mona from 1995 to 1997. She has been Visiting Professor at the Institute of International Relations in Trinidad and has served as an Economic Planning Adviser to the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

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