Monthly Archives: May 2016

What is economics for?

It is important to understand that the defeat of neoliberalism will not depend on ‘better’ economic ideas, strategies and policies. It will depend on reaching a very broad consensus on a fundamentally opposed vision of the future of our societies, of the human family and the planet we call home.

Economic theories, strategies and policies are not based on free-standing, universal, quasi-scientific truths. Since the end of the 18th Century, they have always been designed and promulgated and implemented to achieve the aims and protect the interests of the elites that are in power.

Karl Polanyi, von Hayek’s contemporary and counter-theorist, gives us a very useful starting point in The Great Transformation, a book that was coincidentally published in the UK in 1944.

The passing of market-economy can become the beginning of an era of unprecedented freedom. Juridical and actual freedom can be made wider and more general than ever before; regulation and control can achieve freedom not only for the few, but for all. Freedom not as an appurtenance of privilege, tainted at the source, but as a prescriptive right extending far beyond the narrow confines of the political sphere into the intimate organization of society itself. Thus will old freedoms and civic rights be added to the fund of new freedoms generated by leisure and security that industrial society offers to all. Such a society can afford to be both just and free.1

1Karl Polanyi,. The Great Transformation. New York: Rinehart (1944)