Re: evolution of the market economy

Jay Hanson (
Thu, 14 Jan 1999 16:35:16 -1000

From: "Jay Hanson" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: evolution of the market economy
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 16:35:16 -1000

----- Original Message -----
From: Soclab2 <>

>A friend of mine who is an archaeologist recently asked me whether I knew
anything about the memetic evolution (and
>origin) of the concept of the market economy.

Karl Polyani has this to say:

"BEFORE WE CAN proceed to the discussion of the laws governing a market
economy, such as the nineteenth century was trying to establish, we must
first have a firm grip on the extraordinary assumptions under-lying such a

"Market economy implies a self-regulating system of markets; in slightly
more technical terms, it is an economy directed by market prices and nothing
but market prices. Such a system capable of organizing the whole of economic
life without outside help or interference would certainly deserve to be
called self-regulating. These rough indications should suffice to show the
entirely unprecedented nature of such a venture in the history of the race.

"Let us make our meaning more precise. No society could, naturally, live for
any length of time unless it possessed an economy of some sort; but
previously to our time no economy has ever existed that, even in principle,
was controlled by markets. In spite of the chorus of academic incantations
so persistent in the nineteenth century, gain and profit made on exchange
never before played an important part in human economy. Though the
institution of the market was fairly common since the later Stone Age, its
role was no more than incidental to economic life."


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