Polanyi’s Criticisms on Modern Economics’ Conception of the Human Being


Discipline of economics, who already assimilated the mathematical and technical tools as a base for the expression of theory is almost lost its identity as a social science. This process has become visible through some historical breakups. These breakups have scientific, social and economic faces. While the developments in natural sciences had led the economists to imitate physics - since it uses more certain methods as a science; the market society which established after the industrial revolution separated humans from the economic understanding of the past eras. Rationality, which indeed a philosophical concept, purified from its philosophical context and integrated to economics. On the other hand, the mainstream economics which accepts the maximisation of interest as one of the components of human nature prevailed the economics literature. The modern economics’ conception of human had shaped via the steps which we briefly mentioned above. Karl Polanyi (1886-1964) had criticized the human conception of modern economics by using social anthropological methods. He had claimed that market system did not emerged spontaneously, the nature of human did not change throughout history, and primitive economics was totally different from today’s market society since the economic relations were embedded in the other social relations. In this article, we tried to analyse Polanyi’s criticisms on modern economics’ human conception. For this reason, we firstly argued the term rationality in the economic context, since it would be a basis for our subject. Then we emphasized the thesis of “uncahged nature of human” which highlighted by Polanyi, discussions on primitive economies, and the market society which established parallel to the industrial revolution respectively.


Polanyi market society rationality social anthropology modern economics primitive economies holism