What is it about?

This article re-evaluates a classic work in political economy – Karl Polanyi’s study of the "great transformation." It advances the argument for a large-scale incremental process of the renewed great transformation – the rise of the capital-state. The capital-state safeguards the market order under the auspices of neoliberal globalization. It legitimizes the process of intensive commodification favouring the interests of capital over public ones.

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Why is it important?

The article introduces the the novel capital-state index constructed for the OECD countries between 1980 and 2015. The data reveal uneven convergence of the OECD political economies. This bridges the gap between the neoliberal homogenization and varieties of capitalism approaches. According to the capital-state theory, neo-nationalism unfolds as a protective counter-movement against the erosion of old economic and social structures, creating another iteration of a Polanyian double-movement dynamic.

Perspectives

Karl Polanyi’s commentary on disembedding the economy through the "myth of a self-regulating market" is still relevant today. However, his approach needs to be updated and broadened to understand the most recent transformations of the state. I introduce the concept of the capital-state to account for re-regulation, rather than retreat, of the state for the market. Populist nationalism can be understood as a collective coping strategy to tackle the structural crisis of the state.

Dr Alexander Svitych
National University of Singapore

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This page is a summary of: The rise of the capital-state: a new Polanyian moment, Globalizations, October 2020, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/14747731.2020.1827850.
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