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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

3 - Producing and Obscuring Global Injustices

Summary

Writing toward the end of World War II, the economic historian Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation ([1944] 1957) showed that the “idea of the self-regulating market” for a century and a half had generated a recurrent tension between the notion of free trade and the problems of transforming people, land, and money into commodities. If society did not protect itself from its logic, he argued, the market would inexorably increase economic inequalities, environmental degradation, and financial instability. In Polanyi’s view, the rampant nationalism of the two world wars, and the intervening economic crisis, were reactions to the nineteenth-century expansion of world trade.