n Africa Insight - Towards another 'Great Transformation'

Volume 46, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


As Karl Polanyi indicates in the 'Great Transformation', 'the so-called self-regulating markets cannot exist for any length of time without destroying human society'. Three 'Great Transformations' have taken place. The first occurred in Europe at a time when it was widely believed that markets were nature's way of managing exchange in an efficient way and that interference in the workings of the market, as Adam Smith argued, was not only artificial, but against the laws of God. The second was about society's reaction in defending itself against the ravages of the market. The third was when neoliberalism launched a counter-movement that gave the market primacy. This paper argues that the assumption that the self-regulation expected from 'corporate social responsibility', or the instinct for self-preservation, would replace the state, had failed disastrously. The neoliberal model is therefore in trouble. It is important to contemplate a new global order that will be built on and facilitate social orders that are developmental, socially inclusive and democratic - which will be the fourth 'Great Transformation'. As the paper argues, there are two imperatives: the first imperative would be the creation of global institutions that would ensure that commitments to justice, equality and democracy are translated into global and national policies; and the second one would be the intellectual and ideological challenge of the views and discursive practices that, all too often, fetishised globalisation into some exogenous force that ineluctably imposes its laws on the human race.

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