The substantive economy of money : Karl Polanyi in the tradition of "old institutionalism" - HAL-SHS - Sciences de l'Homme et de la Société Access content directly
Preprints, Working Papers, ... Year : 1995

The substantive economy of money : Karl Polanyi in the tradition of "old institutionalism"

Jérôme Maucourant


The purpose of this contribution is to suggest an interpretation of substantivist thought initiated by Karl Polanyi. An approach such as this is concerned with “historical economics”, in the precise sense that substantive concepts do not come from a retrospective projection of modern prejudgements, but rather from an attempt to apprehend universal categories of economic analysis in order to clarify the genuine singularities of different economic systems . In doing this I shall highlight the coherence of institutionalist thought founded by economists such as Mitchell, Commons and Veblen, into which the reflections of Karl Polanyi fit. In this way, Polanyi thinks of money as an institution that submerges the economy into social relationships. As an analytical result, stripping money of its institutional character and trying to reduce it to a commodity, can only create chaos. In order to give an account of Polanyi's project, I will show, in the first part of my analysis, how Polanyi wants to move away from the idea that economy is created on pure rational logic.As a result, economy owes its very existence to "institutionalised processes" which produce the very inflexibilities necessary for both collective and individual action. Taking this into account, it is impossible to presuppose the unity of “the cattalactic triad” i. e. external trade, money and markets. From this point on, it is possible, in the second part of this analysis, to specify certain interesting results for the economic history of money. From a transhistorical viewpoint, this institution sets the rules for the quantification and extinction of debts. However, in contrast to modern money, archaic money is characterised by a separation of functions which compel us to talk about “money uses”. Consequently, it is better to speak in terms of accounting and payment practises rather than using the single word of “money”. Furthermore, the independence of money in relation to market is a characteristic of numerous archaic societies. Nevertheless, in spite of their differences, both ancient and modern monies politically produce social integration.
Fichier principal
Vignette du fichier
WP_Walras_nA_177.pdf (233.22 Ko) Télécharger le fichier
Origin Files produced by the author(s)

Dates and versions

halshs-00569422 , version 1 (25-02-2011)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00569422 , version 1


Jérôme Maucourant. The substantive economy of money : Karl Polanyi in the tradition of "old institutionalism". 1995. ⟨halshs-00569422⟩
777 View
3010 Download


Gmail Mastodon Facebook X LinkedIn More