On The Great Transformation, suffering, and still using Malick stills for all of my blog posts.
– The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, by Karl Polanyi
– Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, by James C. Scott
Man’s root state, after all, is not wealth but poverty. If we started with very little, and then capitalism made us all wealthier, is it really the devil if, while doing that, a few got wealthier than others? … And yet we do observe such things – people are really angry.
Markets are there, but “culture” in a very broad sense also is. It protects and shields the societies from market failures, largely due to kinship and social relations. When social mechanisms fail, decay, or are destroyed, we absolutely would expect to see certain forms of capitalism arising. … social relationships (whatever form they are) are not always simply media for the market. They’re also ways of containing it.
“Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.” The metic control over societies is gone, and instead of social structures guiding the market, the market guides our social structures. Also: itself, and so the market is now “self-regulating”.
Social history in the nineteenth century was thus the result of a double movement: the extension of the market organization in respect to genuine commodities was accompanied by its restriction in respect to fictitious ones. (79)
Those “fictitious ones” are land, labor, and money. The fiction is that land, labor, and money are simply “other commodities” on the market. They aren’t – those are exactly the objects of social protection (well, money is more political, but that would get things too long and confused). Moreover: no one will treat them as such when they’re in peril.
Hence, the real fiction is that these will behave like other commodities on the market. Widgets don’t fight back when their price drops. But labor, if wages fall or unemployment abounds, will. Basing your entire society around the illusion that it will behave like everything else is ridiculous.