Polanyi and the History of Capitalism

Mark Blyth's rebuttal to our constructive critique of Polanyi “blithely” takes for granted the accuracy of Polanyi's now‐outdated historiography of capitalism—by means of a loose, overly expansive definition of capitalism that question‐beggingly equates it with modernity. Blyth emphasizes the need to view markets as “socially embedded,” with which we agree—but he appears not to take account of the individual self‐interest that is thus embedded. Similarly, he asserts a priori the role of ideas in history, in parallel to the economists he condemns (unfairly) for reading ideas out of history a priori. All of this poorly serves the cause of extracting Polanyi's welcome emphasis on social embeddedness and on the empirical from the ideological and methodological certitudes and errors in which The Great Transformation placed them.

Santhi Hejeebu
Deirdre McCloskey
Published in: Critical Review
2004 16 Pages 135-141