Massimo De Carolis

Destructive Automatism in Modern Societies in Karl Polanyi

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The concept of “Polanyi’s momentµ should be applied not only to point out some general analogy between today’s economic and social crisis and the one which occurred between the two World Wars and provoked the breakdown of European liberal society. In fact, Polanyi’s work allows us to hypothesize a much deeper continuity between the two crises, where both represent different stages of the same interregnum, the same process of institutional metamorphosis. It hereby helps us to decode the deep structures and the lines of evolution of the whole process. This article argues that the key to such institutional metamorphosis is to be sought in the increasing automatism of modern institutional mechanisms. While such increasing automatism is usually portrayed as technical progress, Polanyi uncovers its ambivalent significance and potential destructiveness for social life.


  • Polanyi
  • Interregnum
  • Crisis
  • Automatism
  • Institutional mechanism


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