Semantics of General Economic History

From Karl Polanyi
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Chapter 1: The Two Meanings of Economic

[3] [1] The simple recognition from which all attempts at a definitional system in this field must start is the fact that in referring to human activities the term “economic” as commonly used by scholar and layman alike, fuses two meanings which have logically independent roots. We will call then the formal and the substantive meaning.

The formal meaning derives from the means-ends relationship; the substantive meaning - whether predominantly ecological, technological or institutional - derives from man's causal dependence for his livelihood upon nature and his fellows.

The formal meaning implies a system of logical terms, which refer to choice …


[4] Marx's “means of production” as against “titles to property”; Boehm-Bawerk's “real capital” as against “nominal capital”; John Bates Clark's “capital goods” as against “capital”; Adolf Wagner's “Volkswirtschaftliches Kapital”, as against “privatwirtschaftliches Kapital”, Thorstein Veblen's “industry” as against “business” were such twin concepts without which, according to the view of these authors, the working of a market economy could not be adequately described or explained. However, Menger, Jevons, Marshall, Pareto and some other founders of the neo-classical school deliberately developed the formal meaning into the sole vehicle of economic analysis.

Chapter 2: Logic of Rational Action – Formal Economics – Economic Analysis – Empirical Economy

Chapter 3: Forms of Integration and Supporting Structure Patterns

Reciprocity and symmetry

Redistribution and centricity

Exchange and markets (catallactics)

Dominant forms of integration do not represent “stages”

Integration and equivalencies

Chapter 4: Trade

(I) Catallactic and institutional definition

(II) Institutional features of trade





Gift trade

Administrated trade

Market trade

Chapter 5: Money

(I) Catallactic and institutional definition

(II) Primitive money and modern money

(III) The “money” uses of quantifiable objects

(IV) Institutional origin of money uses

Chapter 6: Market

(I) Catallactic and institution definition

(II) External and internal markets

(III) Institutional features of markets

Editor's Notes

  1. The table of contents is based on 31/16, 2. There is another divisions on 31/17.

Text Informations

Date: 1953
KPA: 31/16 + 31/17 (revised version)