Thursday, January 9, 2014

Great Books from Graduate School | Karl Polanyi, Markets, Ficticious Commodities, and the Need to Protect Society from the Market


Land, Labour, and Money are Ficticious Commodities


“For at the heart of neoliberal and neoliberal theory lies in the necessity of construction coherent markets for land, labour, and money, and these, as Karl Polanyi pointed out, ‘are obviously not commodities … the commodity description of labour, land, and money is entirely ficticious.’” Harvey 2005, 166


Capitalism needs these fictions


"While capitalism cannot function without such fictions, it does untold damage if it fails to acknowledge the complex realities behind them.” Harvey 2005, 167


Market Mechanisms | Fictions destroy society


“To allow market mechanisms to be the sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society. 

For the alleged commodity ‘labor power’ cannot be shoved about, used indiscriminately, or even left unused, without affecting also the human individual who happens to be the bearer of this peculiar commodity. 

In disposing of a man’s labor power, the sytem would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to that tag. 

Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. 

Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. 

Finally, the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society.” Polanyi 1944 [2001], 76 


Society needs protection from markets


“Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organization was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill.” Polanyi 1944 [2001], 76 

Sources: 
David Harvey. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Karl Polanyi. 1944 [2001]. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time.
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