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form of economic integration

  A concept proposed by Karl Polanyi to describe the means by which an economy \'acquires unity and stability, that is the interdependence and recurrence of its parts\' (cf. system). Polanyi distinguished three main forms of economic integration: reciprocity, redistribution and market exchange. \'Since they occur side by side on different levels and in different sectors of the economy\', Polanyi argued, \'it may often be possible to select one of them as dominant so that they could be employed for a classification of economies as a whole\'. Dominance was to be identified by the degree to which any one of them \'comprises land and labour in a society\' (Polanyi in Dalton, 1971, 148-56). Polanyi\'s purpose was thus to treat the economy as an instituted process: \'instituted\' because coherent structures were imposed on economies through historically specific institutions and \'process\' because these various structures were reproduced through transactions across space and over time.

This approach came to be the cornerstone of what Polanyi called substantivist anthropology, whose focus on the historical specificity of different forms of economic integration was in sharp contrast to \'formalist\' approaches, the generalizations of which assumed price-fixing markets to be the universal economic mechanism (cf. neo-classical economics). \'The error was in equating the human economy in general with its market form\', Polanyi wrote, and in assuming that every division of labour implied the existence of market exchange. Such a formalism, so he believed, ignored \'the shifting place occupied by the economy in society\' and made it impossible to understand the various ways in which pre-capitalist economies were \'embedded\' in distinctive social relations (Polanyi in Pearson, 1977, pp. 6 and 104).

Polanyi\'s ideas have attracted considerable (and sometimes critical) attention within both anthropology and history (see Humphreys, 1969; North, 1977). Within geography, they were used by Wheatley in his seminal investigation of urban origins, which focused on the shift from reciprocity to redistribution (Wheatley, 1971). Wheatley\'s arguments were extended in different directions by Harvey in his parallel examinations of urbanism. Although his primary concern was market exchange within contemporary capitalism, he regarded all three concepts of \'reciprocity, redistribution and market exchange [as] simple and effective tools for dissecting the relationship between societies and the urban forms manifest within them\'. Indeed, these concepts were treated as both superior to Marx\'s concept of a mode of production, which at the time Harvey thought \'too broad and all-embracing\' for his purpose, and yet essentially compatible with Marx\'s views. They offered \'the conceptual means to characterise a social and economic formation\' and provided \'consistent threads to trace the transformation from one mode to production to another\' (Harvey, 1973, pp. 206-15). But there are important differences between Marx and Polanyi and Polanyi was consistently critical of \'the economistic fallacy\' which he considered to be common to both formalist anthropology and historical materialism (Block and Somers, 1984). In his later writings, certainly, Harvey paid little attention to Polanyi and concentrated on Marx (e.g. Harvey, 1982). Even so, the emergence of world-systems analysis has once again brought Polanyi\'s ideas to the attention of a Marxisant audience. In particular, Waller-stein\'s (1978, 1984) identification of three distinctive \'social systems\' depends upon \'the existence within [each of them] of a division of labour, such that the various sectors or areas with [each one] are dependent upon economic exchange for the smooth and continuous provisioning of the needs of the area\'.Wallerstein calls these divisions of labour and systems of exchange \'modes of production\' but, as the figure above shows, they are in fact formally equivalent to Polanyi\'s forms of economic integration and betray a similar emphasis on functionalist constructions (Aronowitz, 1981). (DG)

{img src=show_image.php?name=bkhumgeofig25a.gif }

form of economic integration 1: Schemes of form of economic integration (after Wheatley, 1973)

{img src=show_image.php?name=bkhumgeofig25b.gif }

form of economic integration 2: Modes of production and social systems

References Aronowitz, S. 1981: A metatheoretical critique of Immanuel Wallerstein\'s The modern world system. Theory and Society 9: 503-20. Block, F. and Somers, M. 1984: Beyond the economistic fallacy: the holistic social science of Karl Polanyi. In T. Skocpol, ed., Vision and method in historical sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 47-84. Dalton, G., ed., 1968, 1971: Primitive, archaic and modern economies: essays of Karl Polanyi. Boston: Beacon Press; Harvey, D. 1973: Social justice and the city. London: Edward Arnold; Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Harvey, D. 1982: The limits to capital. Oxford: Blackwell; Chicago: Chicago University Press. Humphreys, S.C. 1969: History, economics and anthropology: the work of Karl Polanyi. History and Theory 8: 165-212. North, D.C. 1977: Markets and other allocation systems in history: the challenge of Karl Polanyi. Journal of European Economic History 6: 703-16. Pearson, H., ed., 1977: The livelihood of man: essays of Karl Polanyi. New York: Academic Press; Wallerstein, I. 1978: The capitalist world-economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Wallerstein, I. 1984: The politics of the world-economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wheatley, P. 1971: The pivot of the four quarters. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press; Chicago: Aldine. Wheatley, P. 1973: Satyantra in Suvarnadvipa: from reciprocity to redistribution in ancient South-East Asia. In J.A. Sabloff and C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, eds, Ancient civilization and trade. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, ch. 6.

Suggested Reading Dalton (1968). Humphreys (1969). North (1977).



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