To Oszkár Jászi (27 October 1950)

From Karl Polanyi
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[227] My dear Oszi,

Apologies … […]

I am already of an age … […]

You and I came of age before the great transformation. […] - on the one hand, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (but as reflections of the Russian revolutions!), and one the other my English upbringing, overseen by my deeply Westernized father, which eventually bore me to Britain in 1931 and 1933.

As to my own person, I was part of a special mission … […] … and to [228] which I probably owe all twists and turns, all transcendental ataraxia. I was taught tolerance not only by Goethe but also, with seemingly mutually exclusive accents, by Dostoevsky and John Stuart Mill. Marxism has not interested me since the age of twenty-two. At thirty-two, I came under a decisive religions influence. (You were the only one who noticed back then - what I can only now appreciate and understand - that my detached mood resulted from a degree of a mysticism.) To this I owe the blessing of my life - my marriage, against which you warned me, with the sober, serious concern of a true friend. But who can know the hidden pathway of life? […]

But old age envisaged … […] In the 1909 Jubilee supplement of Huszadik Század I published my hypotheses under the title 'The crisis of our ideologies' - emerging from the Marxist egg - and these, thirty years later, some errors withstanding, outlined a set of major developments within the history of ideas. (I only know about Ervin [Szábo], who knew of they were warning. I do not know what you thought of them, but you did publish them. They meant nothing for the rest of the world.) I now see that, ever since then, I was waiting for the actuality of the prophecy. […] From 1909 to 1935 I concluded nothing. I strained my powers fruitlessly: in a one-side idealism, its soarings disappearing into the void.

This also … […]

This made your mission … […]

Who bears responsibility … […] I did not try to forge unity through action with the workers, the peasantry or with the nationalities, nor did I even look for it. It was short-sighted to claim that a predominantly Jewish intelligentsia could not have ventured to undertake this anyway (Szábo's damaging error.) […] committed, [229] long-term and clear-sighted political work, … […] I was never a politician; I had neither talent for it, nor any interest in it.

I was fifty … […]

Some three years later, … […]

The surprise arrived … […] H. Spencer's descriptive sociology (or parts of it) aimed at something like this; the posthumous work of Max Weber would have accomplished it, if he had not deployed such complicated typologies. But basically, in the era of both Spencer and Weber, the limits to the market economy, which were to tower over the 1920s and 1930s, were still not apparent to us. Grote or Mommsen, or even Eduard Meyer and Rostovtzeff, used the market model as historical norm.

How I would … […] The famous [230] stone-carved equivalent values of the theocratic kings of Babylonia removed the stigma of profit from simple …

My dear Oszi, old love … […]

May God … […]

Letter Informations

Original Text: Jászi Oszkárnak küldött levél (1950. október 27.)
KPA: 48/05, 9-13
Published English Translation: in DALE Gareth (ed.), Karl Polanyi: The Hungarian Writings, p. 227-230
Other languages:

Lg Name
FR A Oszkár Jászi (27 octobre 1950)