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Economia e Sociedade

Print version ISSN 0104-0618


MACHADO, Nuno Miguel Cardoso. Karl Polanyi and the "Great Debate" between the substantivists and formalists in economic anthropology. Econ. soc. [online]. 2012, vol.21, n.1, pp.165-195. ISSN 0104-0618.

At the root of Polanyian thought, a distinction can be found between the substantive and formal concepts of the economy. In fact, the substantivist conception, that defines the economy as an instituted process of interaction between man and its natural and social environment, which results in a continuous supply of material means to meet human needs, constitutes the basis of the method recommended by the author: institutional analysis. With this distinction, Polanyi intends to avoid the "economistic fallacy", which consists of the automatic identification of the economy in its market form. Only in the modern capitalist economy does a system of "price-making markets" play a fundamental role. These questions were amply discussed in the so-called "Great Debate" between the substantivist and formalist schools of thought in the discipline of Economic Anthropology.

Keywords : Polanyi; Karl; 1886-1964; Substantivism; Formalism; Institutional analysis; Economy; Market.

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