Polanyi in times of populism: Vision and contradiction in the history of economic ideas, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Polanyi in times of populism

Vision and contradiction in the history of economic ideas, 1st Edition

By Christopher Holmes


176 pages

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pub: 2018-04-16
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The rise of populism across Europe and the US – first in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and then in the shape of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Brexit vote in 2016 – are indicative of a seismic shift in the terrain of economic ideas in public discourse. Settled liberal norms concerning ever-increasing international market expansion, and the political integration required to sustain it, have been decisively upset by political forces that, whilst once on the fringes, now dominate economic debate. How might we make sense of this ideological breakdown and what might we hope for next?

This book turns to the work of Karl Polanyi for answers, developing the expansive, historicised approach to political economy that Polanyi pioneered. Holmes provides a wide-ranging history of economic ideas read in terms of a series of hopeful theoretical visions of order, in which political, social and ecological contradictions could be transcended in one way or another. Through this, the book demonstrates that the failing utopian visions of pre-2008 economic orthodoxy, which have formed the backdrop to the rise of populism today, are only the latest in a series that stretches across economic thought in Western modernity as a whole.

This book will interest students and scholars of IPE, political science, sociology, anthropology, law and history.


"Polanyi in Times of Populism is… a much-needed plea to acknowledge that the democratic precondition of any exploratory movement and learning process, which are so vital in times of transformation, is a society in which plural interests, ideas, and values can be expressed and discussed."

Richard Bärnthaler, Österreich Z Soziol (2019)

"Overall, this monography seems to be the first major step of a research programme of crucial importance in contemporary (international) political economy. For a person not versed in the history of economic thought, it is not the easiest reading, but every line is worth many times the effort."

Paulus Wagner, The International Spectator (2019)

Table of Contents

Part I - Polanyian perspectives

Chapter 1 - Polanyi in times of Brexit and Trump

Chapter 2 - Towards a post-Polanyian approach


Part II - Contradiction and transcendence

Chapter 3 - Property, order and commerce

Chapter 4 - Justice, price and power

Chapter 5 - Transcendence and the disembedding of economic ideas


Part III - Marketised social protection

Chapter 6 - Money and finance

Chapter 7 - Nature and climate change

Chapter 8 - People and welfare provision


Part IV – Contradiction without transcendence

Chapter 9 – Habitation versus improvement today

About the Author

Christopher Holmes is a Lecturer in Political Economy at King’s College, London. He works on various topics including the history of economic ideas, financial and monetary politics and alternatives to GDP in policy-making. He has published in a variety of leading journals including Economy and Society, New Political Economy, Review of International Political Economy and the British Journal of Politics and International Relations.

About the Series

RIPE Series in Global Political Economy

For almost two decades now, the RIPE Series published by Routledge has been an essential forum for cutting-edge scholarship in International Political Economy. The series brings together new and established scholars working in critical, cultural and constructivist political economy. Books in the RIPE Series typically combine an innovative contribution to theoretical debates with rigorous empirical analysis.

The RIPE Series seeks to cultivate:

  • Field-defining theoretical advances in International Political Economy
  • Novel treatments of key issue areas, both historical and contemporary, such as global finance, trade, and production
  • Analyses that explore the political economic dimensions of relatively neglected topics, such as the environment, gender relations, and migration
  • Accessible work that will inspire advanced undergraduates and graduate students in International Political Economy.

James Brassett – Warwick

Eleni Tsingou – Copenhagen Business School

Susanne Soederberg – Queen’s

Learn more…

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