Greg Nowell GN842 at CNSVAX.Albany.Edu
Thu Mar 11 13:59:29 PST 1999

Watch the word "subconscious" in Polanyi's GT, as in society subconsciously rebelling against market mechanisms. It's a key fudge point.

In the end the argument that the accumulation driven tensions (in Marxist terms) are resolved through mutations and innovations in state policy. Fascism is one possible outcome, so is a more benign social democracy (which he endorses at the end of the book). So, in spite of the emphasis on the transiton from feudalism to capitalism and all that, I'm not sure that he qualifies as a "Marxist."

As for using him to teach, my main problem has been the heavy dosage of what usually would qualify as "intellectual history." If you're trying to teach the reasons for various disequilibria (gold standard, whatever) and how the state and society react to them, you find yourself having to wade through Owen, Burke, and what have you. Pedgagoically the book requires you to teach what we (in poly sci) would call "political theory" at the same time that one is trying to elucidate the dynamics of "political economy."

That's not bad, and it is in fact indicative of Polanyi's high level of synthesis. And the truth is that Polanyi becomes considerably less opaque if read with a single volume encyclopedia (like the Random House) to clear up the allusions.

But I note that there is an extroardinary resistance to using encyclopediae among the students and among the professoriat. Among the students it is sheer inertia, whatever is not rigorously required is ignored. Among the professors it is disdain, that an encyclopedia has no value. Both positions are an impediment to the acquistion of useful information. -- Gregory P. Nowell Associate Professor Department of Political Science, Milne 100 State University of New York 135 Western Ave. Albany, New York 12222

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