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Waves of Populism: A Recent Manifestation of Polanyi’s “Double Movement”?

Ann E. Davis

Journal of Economic Issues, 2020, vol. 54, issue 2, 398-403

Abstract: Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, there has been a new wave of populism in the United States and in Europe. The hypothesis of this article is that this GFC has created the conditions for the resurgence of populism. According to Polanyi’s work of 1944, The Great Transformation, the market is “utopian” and must be imposed by the state. Further, there is a disciplinary dimension, which separates the individual worker from the community, for the purposes of allowing the “prod of hunger” to be effective. This disciplinary dimension of the market, which is based on Polanyi’s analysis of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, can be extended. Several phenomena in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have intensified the tensions inherent in the market: fragmented production by means of finely divided global supply chains, increasing inequality due to the market structure; automation, declining labor share; increasing indebtedness; financialization; and erosion of protective labor market institutions, such as welfare and unionization. Populist movements are part of the backlash or “double movement” against these tensions inherent in the market.Polanyi’s analysis may contribute to a greater understanding of what may be a global inflection point at present.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1080/00213624.2020.1743602

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