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A Call For Radical Imagination
European Straits #2
How chaos in fin-de-siècle Vienna inspired Karl Polanyi
At the turn of the 20th century, Vienna was marked by the contradictions of the failing Austro-Hungarian Empire: it produced the greatest thinkers and radical artists of the time—Freud, Schumpeter, Hayek, Klimt, Schönberg—but also the destructive forces that would bring Austria-born Hitler to annihilate millions of Jews. Born in Vienna three years before Hitler, liberal economist Karl Polanyi witnessed firsthand the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian civilization.
How we are going through a similar period of transformation today
Karl Polanyi’s masterpiece The Great Transformation, published in 1944, provides a precious blueprint for all techno-economic transitions. The one between the 19th century economy and the Fordist economy led to a devastating break between laissez-faire and democracy. All great transformations, including today’s transition to the digital economy, require the somewhat painful process of imagining the new institutions that befit a new social and economic paradigm.
Why today’s 'Great Transformation' calls for radical imagination
Another such 'Polanyi moment' has arrived. As we have to cope with a jobless economy, increasing geopolitical tensions, global terrorism and the success of far-right populism in many advanced democracies, our economic growth, civil liberties and social security can no longer be taken for granted. With liberalism undergoing a profound crisis, new institutions must be imagined to hedge individuals against new risks and enable another era of inclusive prosperity.
Other related readings
Technological Revolutions and Techno-Economic Paradigms (Carlota Perez, 2009). Link
A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100 (Venkatesh Rao, 2011). Link
Doom! Our Economic Nightmare Is Just Beginning (John B. Judis, 2011). Link
The Austerity Delusion: Why a Bad Idea Won Over the West (Mark Blyth, 2013). Link
The Great Middle-Class Identity Crisis (Simon Kuper, 2013). Link
How the Bank of England Abandoned the Gold Standard (James Titcomb, 2015). Link
Maybe This Global Slowdown Is Different (Justin Fox, 2015). Link
Another 100 Days: A Digital New Deal for Workers (2015). Link
A Valley Divided: Do Startups Widen the Inequality Gap? (2016). Link
The Promise of a Truly Entrepreneurial Society (Richard Straub, 2016). Link
Karl Polanyi for President (Patrick Iber & Mike Konczal, 2016). Link