In the neoliberal era, Karl Polanyi’s notion of the ‘double movement’ has been widely deployed by social scientists as a critique of the prevailing order and a predictor of its demise. This article presents the double movement theorem, drawing upon Polanyi’s published and unpublished writings. It explores parallels between his explanation of the advent of the 19th-century free-market regime in Britain and recent Polanyian accounts of the rise of neoliberalism. Following an analysis of the ‘pendular’ refunctioning of Polanyi’s thesis, it closes by asking whether the recent global financial crisis heralds a pendulum swing from neoliberalism (or ‘market fundamentalism’) towards a form of socially coordinated capitalism, or towards ‘more of the same’. As of 2011, it appears that neoliberal policy and ideology remain hegemonic, not in reinvigorated form but as an ‘undead’ policy regime, one that has spawned a burgeoning literature on ‘zombie capitalism’ and ‘zombie neoliberalism’.
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