Polanyi, Karl (18861964)
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Hungarian-American economic historian and (until his forced emigration to Britain) political leader, whose "substantivist" theory exerted decisive influence on economic anthropology. In 1940, Polanyi emigrated to the United States, where he received a professorship at Columbia University. He was still at Columbia when Julian Steward arrived there in 1946 and initiated his materialist and neo-evolutionist program there. Polanyi became an important influence on Steward's many, later highly influential, students (the influence is most visible in Sahlins's early work). Polanyi's most famous work is The Great Transformation (1944), where he, in an analysis of the evolution of the market in 19th century Europe, introduces substantivist economic theory, according to which economic processes are embedded in wider social institutions, upon which their dynamics are dependent. Thus, economic theory must be adapted to the specific social circumstances of the society under study, and market economic theory cannot be utilized universally. Polanyi delineates four basic forms of economic integration: reciprocity (e.g. gift exchange), householding (self-sufficient household economies), redistribution (in which resources are collected to a center which allocates and distributes them) and the market economy. Though this scheme has later been extended (e.g. by Sahlins) and critiqued, its basic tenet - that the economy is institutionalized, has remained central in economic anthropology, and may also be traced in modern economic theory, e.g. the so-called New Institutional Economics.


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