To Ilona (26 July 1941)

From Karl Polanyi
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… Last night Braissford came over from his nearly home, and we discussed the early history of the English Utopians, from Moore to Owen. … Economics have developed into a great science in recent years and unless one keeps up with it one can easily get out of touch with the underlying thinking of the masses themselves which imperceptibly is affected by the new approaches.

[…] Note since 1920 did I have a time so rich in study and development than my last three weeks around Columbia libraries.[1] My sweet Auf-der-Wieden landlady to whom Bözsi managed to introduced me keeps me safe and hale, making my meals myself, from cans and casualness getting up early, and living cheaply, while watching my private affairs maturing in the hot house atmosphere of Bennington's goodwill and my own solitude. GRANDFATHER and Böszi were both invited to her for tea on the night before I left [2] and here was a real occasion for him to develop his genius for the idyllic. We were of course engaged in one of those cross-wise discussions, where his dogmatic militancy … grandfather… Lasswell … David Truman … I will write to David, to make sure that grandfather get's the right type of work with Lasswell. However, Lasswell knows everything about Continental scholarship and is probably better acquainted with Kolmia's work than I myself. It was very high time that something turned up, for things we beginning to look gloomy for grandfather. Bözsi was holding up her end in a splendid way… Ted Newcombe… Gregory Vlastos (…) also is at Columbia summer school; …Paul Lazarsfeld … all this is very much Vorgartenstraße. …

[3] Misi is a queer fish. […] Mausi somehow … Hans and Misi, and Evi is siding by necessity and conviction with her husband.

59/05 30/02
My own studies fall into three periods, I should say, as far as this session is concerned. First, I tried to Americanize my knowledge of the various social sciences, reading the leading American sociologists, political scientists, psychologists and philosophers. Actually Dewey (some six of his works) took a month, but this had to be expanded by Pierce, Mead, James and Morris. I read up almost all of Lasewell's; a number of anthropological works, like Boas, Linton and Ruth Benedikt; I studied the history of American democratic thinking; and some authors who form opinion just now. Then I proceeded to a comprehensive study of economies, mainly the Keynesian School - that brilliant galaxy of writers to whom Mrs Robinson, Harrod, Robertson, Meade, Mr. Robinson and Chamberlin in the U.S.A. belong. I had to read much of Haberler's, Hayek's stuff too, quite apart from the genuine Americans like Wesel, Mitchell. To this second period I would reckon my efforts to get into semantics, my reading of Carnap, Morris, Woodger [4] and others. Incidentally I took my first dip into elementary mathematics in order to get a better grip on my economics. (I forgot to mention my continuous occupation with the subject matters' of my seminar - closely related to the book stuff - which kept me busy on the theory of Balance of Power, Imperialism, and the influence of Xty on the development of Western Civilisation mainly remaining on Max Weber, Troeltsch, Sombart, Tawney, Pirenne and Cunningham, but eventually having to include the Institutio Christiana of Calvin and other rather out of the way matters.) The third and by far the most important period started with the beginning of July and is still continuing: research work at Columbia. The main periods on which I am testing the validity of my ideas are the Speenhamland period about 1800 and the turn towards protectionism about 1875, finally

the 1920-40 period in which the Collapse occurred. These three will probably form the bulk of the material, insofar as it is historical. On the whole I find my intuition more supported than not by what I find in the facts; but of this, another time.

[5] My studies fall into three periods, I should say.
First, I tried to Americanise my knowledge of the various social sciences, reading the leading American sociologists, political scientists, psychologists and philosophers. Actually Dewey (some six of his works) took a month, but this had to be expanded by Pierce, Mead, James and Morris. I read up almost all of {Hasewell's} number of anthropological works, like Boas, Lindon and Ruth Benedikt; I studied the history of American Democratic thinking and some authors who form opinion just now. Then I proceeded to a comprehensive study of economies, mainly the Keynesian School - that brilliant galaxy of writers to whom Mrs Robinson, Harrod, Robertson, Mead, Mr. Robinson and Chamberlin in the U.S.A. belong. I had read much of Haberler's, Hayek's stuff too, quite apart from the genuine Americans like Wesel, Mitchell. To this second period I would reckon my efforts to get into semantics, my reading of Carnap, Morris, Wedger and others. Incidentally I took my first dip into elementary mathematics in order to get a better grip on my economics. (I forgot to mention my continuous occupation with the subject matters of my seminar - closely related to the book stuff - which kept me busy on the theory of Balance of Power, Imperialism, and the influence of christianity on the development of development of Western Civilisation, relying mainly on Max Weber, Troeltsch, Sombart, Tawney, Pirenne and Cunningham, but eventually having to include the Institutio Christiana ov Calvin and other rather out of the way matters.) The third and by far the most important period started with the beginning of July and is still continuing: research work at Columbia. The main Periods on which I

am testing the validity of my ideas are the Speenhamland period, about 1800 and the turn towards perfectionism about 1875; finally the 1920 to 40 period in which the collapse occurred. These will form the bulk material insofar as it is historical. On the whole I find my intuition more supported than not in the facts………

By the time this letter reaches you I will preparing to go up to Bennington for the dance festival (one of my ex-students is offering to take me by car). The Summer Dance School is only very losely connected with Bennington, actually it is entirely independent of the College although some of our people take part in the running of it. This will give an occasion to review with Mr. Leigh the position of your job and should things work out unfavorably, I would of course make sure that the feel reassured about my complet understanding of the needs of the College. There always was a second person in petto, I am not certain who that person is though I think I know through an indiscretion, or rather by a chance circumstance which occurred me after your appointment). So the College … […]

[5] Now to Kari's special concerns, … […]

[6] […]

I received your charming letter to Leigh which will pass on to him, of course. And also your cable with the permit numbers… […]

A week ago I went to see old Mr Gussich in his summer resort (in Klosterneuburg, as it were). He must have been much younger than your father, for he is certainly far from 70. I liked him very much, and we spent a long Saturday afternoon together on the sea side on Long Island, where they are now staying. […]He like Sandor thought he remembered that your father had taken out his first papers (if not also his second papers, which under the lax at that time were taken out three years after the first, but did not confer American nationality until another two years.) I am now having made inquiries in Washington. […] As to Chicago, where according to both Sandor and Gussich your father died, I have not yet taken up the matter again. Otto is helping me in that direction. In spite of Raoul Blumberg matters are progressing in Washington very slowly.

Editor's Note

  1. The sentence : “Not since 1920 did I have a time so rich in study and development…………… ” is also copied in the 30/02 archive.

Letter Informations

Reference:
KPA: 59/05, 1-6