Karl Polanyi as a precursor of world-systems theorists
An investigation of the theoretical lineage to Giovanni Arrighi
in Karl Polanyi and twenty-first-century capitalism
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This chapter discusses the theoretical and historical relationship between Karl Polanyi’s book, The Great Transformation, and Giovanni Arrighi’s 1994 work, The Long Twentieth Century. Arrighi was already acquainted with Polanyi’s works in the 1970s in his critical inspection of the concept of imperialism. But then, he rediscovered Polanyi in the discussion of globalisation around the turn of the twentieth century, after becoming conscious of the vital importance of Fernand Braudel’s perspective and of economic sociology for understanding historical capitalism. He put Polanyi’s discussion of the rise and decline of British hegemony in the longer historical perspective and in a more complex structure of the world-systems theory, and investigated it in connection to the American hegemony. In this way, Arrighi has accomplished a very unique theoretical contribution to the globalised world of our age.

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