Karl Polanyi and the Law of Market Society

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Karl Polanyi started his career as a doctor of law and practiced law
for a while; but he did not become a legal scholar. As an economic historian,
anthropologist, or sociologist, he was concerned with the relation of economy and
society. But even though law is an important factor in mediating this relationship,
Polanyi gave little attention to the law as such. As part of an endeavour to advance
a "Polanyian" economic sociology of law, this article develops the "law of market
Society" as an analytical category. For thi
s purpose, three argumentative strategies
are combined. First, the article draws on
The Great Transformation
to reconstruct the
role of law in the processes of commodification and decommodification. Second,
it turns to Marxist scholarship to explore the conceptual link between law and
economics and to ponder to what extent law itself can become a commodity. Third,
it links Polanyi's approach with American institutionalism, and Commons' work in
particular, to show how the evolution of the "law of market Society" can also be
understood as a collective enterprise which continuously evolves. It is argued that
these perspectives complement each other and help to bring the law back in where it is missing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197 - 208
JournalÖsterreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie (ÖZS)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 506004 European integration
  • 504001 General sociology
  • 504030 Economic sociology
  • 504024 Sociology of law

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