The Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation

Asad Zaman


Polanyi’s book, The Great Transformation, provides an analysis of the emergence and significance of capitalist economic structures which differs radically from those currently universally taught in economic textbooks. This analysis is based on a methodological approach which is also radically different from existing methodologies for economics, and more generally social science. This methodology is used by Polanyi without explicit articulation. Our goal in this article is to articulate the methodology used in this book to bring out the several dimensions on which it differs from current approaches to social science. Among the key differences Polanyi provides substantial scope for human agency and capability to change the course of history. He also shows that the social, political and economic spheres of human existence are deeply interlinked and cannot be analysed in isolation, as current approaches assume.

Published on 30th March, 2016, in Economic Thought Vol 5, No 1, 2016