Forms of integration: redistribution and (market) exchange (roundtable)
Chris Hann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo)
Keir Martin (University of Oslo)
Thursday 16 August, 11:15-13:00 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Following Karl Polanyi, the balance between redistribution and markets (notably with reference to the fictive commodity labour and its mobility) is central to societal cohesion. Contributors will address multiple levels, from the household to the planet, in a variety of spatio-temporal frameworks.

Long abstract:

Together with reciprocity, the concepts of redistribution and (market) exchange were put forward by Karl Polanyi as principles of economic behaviour or "forms of integration". They are the basic tools of his comparative economic anthropology. For Polanyi, when the market exchange form is dominant (i.e. when the "fictive commodities" of labour, land and money are subjected to price-forming markets), economy becomes "disembedded" from society. Societal "self-protection" then leads to reactionary forms of politics, including Fascism.

Revisiting Polanyi's key concepts can help anthropologists to analyze and critique multiple dimensions of "overheating" or global accelerated change (Eriksen). It is instructive to link contemporary analyses to a long-term historical dialectic between redistribution and the market (Hann). Alongside the expansion of markets, Eurasian states have consolidated their fiscal powers over millennia. More recently, while redistribution in the form of socialist central planning is generally considered a failure, "Keynesian" redistribution underpinned decades of stable and prosperous welfare states in Scandinavia and the rest of Western Europe. Can this form of integration be re-activated and massively extended in a post-neoliberal 21st century? Or are well-intended measures to extend transfer income to society's weaker members in practice easily subverted by the dominance of capitalist markets? The level of the nation-state is clearly insufficient: without substantial redistribution between regions on the planetary scale, recent crises of more or less (in)voluntary mobility will intensify. Participants at this Round Table will address these issues from a plurality of theoretical and political perspectives.