The seventieth anniversary of the publication of two seminal political economy texts arrived in 2014. In 1944 both Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation and Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom were published, delineating very different pathways to the utopian springs constituting and challenging market economy.
The Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney hosted an international workshop across 15-16 August 2014, entitled ‘Questioning the Utopian Springs of Market Economy’, in order to revisit these magnetic poles of political economy as a compass for questioning the market economy of the twenty-first century. The workshop was anchored around three keynote plenaries by leading international experts in Sandra Halperin, Philip Mirowski and Gareth Dale as well as a series of papers delivered during the course of the workshop.
For Polanyi, the utopian springs of the dogma of liberalism existed within the extension of the market mechanism to the ‘fictitious commodities’ of land, labour, and money. There was nothing natural about laissez-faire. The progress of the utopia of a self-regulating market was backed by the state and checked by a double movement, which attempted to subordinate the laws of the market to the substance of human society through principles of self-protection, legislative intervention, and regulation.
For Hayek, the utopia of freedom was threatened by the abandonment of individualism and classical liberalism. The tyranny of government interventionism led to the loss of freedom, the creation of an oppressive society, and the despotism of dictatorship that led to the serfdom of the individual. Economic planning in the form of socialism and fascism had commonalities that stifled individual freedom. Against the power of the state, the guiding principle of the policy of freedom for the individual was advocated.
Here we make available the second plenary address from Philip Mirowski, ‘Polanyi vs Hayek?’