The Livelihood of Man

From Karl Polanyi
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Karl Polanyi: Notes on His Life

Editor's Preface

Editor's Introduction


[xxxix] On the theoretical level, an attempt is made to develop concepts of trade, money, and market institutions applicable to all types of societies. On the historical level, case studies are intended to bring to life our generalizations, by way of parallel and contrast. On the policy level, history should be made to yield answers to some of the burning moral and operational problems of our own age.


[xl] The crucial policy slant comes home to us as the earlier millennia [xli] of human problems pass in review. What to our generation seem unique and fateful cross-roads – freedom versus bureaucracy, planning versus market methods – are then recognized as topical variants of recurrent human situations.


Although in terms of livelihood our modern world may be even younger than we thought, the great problems of the human race – freedom and centralization, initiative and planning – certainly bear more lasting features than we believed to be possible.


I. The Place of the Economy in Society

A. Concepts and Theory

1. The Economistic Fallacy

2. The Two Meanings of Economic

[19] The substantive meaning, points to the elemental fact that human beings, like all other living things, cannot exist for any length of time without a physical environment that sustains them; this is the origin of the substantive definition of economic.

3. Forms of Integration and Supporting Structures

B. Institutions.

The Emergence of Economic Transactions: From Tribal to Archaic Society

4. The Economy Embedded in Society
I. Introduction
II. Status and contratus

[48] Maine, Toennies and Marx exerted a deep influence on Continental sociology through Max Weber …

[49] Between Maine and Toennies the emotional connotation of status or community, on the one hand, and contractus and society, on the other, were very different. Maine thought of the precontractus condition of mankind as the dark age of tribalism; the introduction of the contract he felt, emancipated the individual from bondage to the tribe. Toennies’ sympathies, on the contrary, were rather with the warmth of the community against the impersonal business ties of society. He idealized “community” as a condition where human beings are linked together by the tissue of common experience, while ‘society’ was never far removed from the impersonality of the market and the “cash nexus”, as Thomas Carlyle dubbed the relationship of persons connected only with market ties.

Toennie’s ideal was the restoration of community – not, however by returning to the preindustrial stage of society, but by advancing to a higher civilization. He thought of it as a kind of cooperative phase of civilization that would retain the advantages of technological progress and individual freedom while restoring the wholeness of life. His position resembled, to some extent, that of Robert Owen or, among modern thinkers, that of Lewis Mumford. In Walt Whitman’s Democratic Vistas (1871) one may discover prophetic analogies to this outlook.

III. The contribution of anthropology
5. The Emergence of Economic Transaction
6. Equivalencies in Archaic Societies
7. The Economic Role of Justice, Law and Freedom

The Catallactic Triad: Trade, Money, and Markets

8. Traders and Trade
9. Money Objects and Money Uses
I. Money as a Semantic System
II. Institutional Analysis of Money
III. Exchange Money

[104] Apart from Smith and Ricardo, sociologists like Spencer, Durkheim, Mauss, and Simmel also fell victim to the catallactic fallacy that division of labour implied exchange.

IV. The Payment Use of Money
V. The Storage Use of Money
VI. Money as Standard of Value or as Money of Account
VII. Treasure and Staple in Money Uses
VIII. Treasure and Power in Ancient Greece
IX. Money and Status
X. Summary
10. Market Elements and Market Origins

II. Trade, Markets and Money in Ancient Greece

11. The Hesiodic Age: Tribal Decay and Peasant Livelihood

12. Local Markets: The Political Economy of Polis and Agora

13. Local Markets and Overseas Trade

14. Securing Grain Imports

15. The Growth of Market Trade

16. Money, Banking, and Finance

17. "Capitalism" in Antiquity

Text Informations

Original Publication: The Livelihood of Man, H. W. Pearson (ed.), New York, Academic Press, 1977

  • 35/11: Table of contents - Preface, Introduction (1950, 86 typed p.)
  • 36/01: Draft Manuscript – Livelihood of Man – Part I Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 12. Part II Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 15, 16, and 17 ;
  • 36/02: Karl Polanyi Draft Manuscript, late 1977 edited by H. Pearson (96 typed p.)

Other Languages:

Lge Name
FR La subsistance de l’Homme