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The Unconscious Countermovement and the Conscious Polanyian Movement: A New Vocabulary for Contemporary Polanyian Scholarship

Rowan Alcock, DPhil candidate, has published a new article which offers a new interpretation of Polanyi’s ‘double movement’ and ‘countermovement’ concepts.

Abstract

This article aims to overcome an impasse in current Polanyian scholarship by suggesting a new vocabulary to explain Polanyi’s ‘double movement’ and ‘countermovement’ concepts – the unconscious countermovement and the conscious Polanyian movement. It argues current literature often misinterprets these core concepts, which can lead to a misunderstanding of Polanyi’s general thesis. This paper uses the Carton (2018. On the Nature of the Countermovement: A Response to Stuart et al.’s ‘Climate Change and the Polanyian Countermovement: Carbon Markets or Degrowth?’. New Political Economy)-Stuart et al. (2019. Climate Change and the Polanyian Counter-movement: Carbon Markets or Degrowth? New Political Economy, 24 (1), 89–102) debate on the countermovement to exemplify some of the current misapplications of the countermovement as explicitly ‘anti-capitalist’ (Stuart et al. 2019. Climate Change and the Polanyian Counter-movement: Carbon Markets or Degrowth? New Political Economy, 24 (1), 89–102) movements. This paper argues that in fact all countermovements, as described in The Great Transformation, are necessarily non-ideological. I argue that dialectics and consciousness are fundamental to understanding the double movement and countermovement concepts and that highlighting the conscious/unconscious dynamic within Polanyi’s work helps avoid misreadings of key concepts and provides a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of Polanyi’s general theory.

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    Cover of the latest edition of 'New Political Economy'
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