This essay will attempt to develop a theoretical reconstruction of Polanyi’s double movement concept – showing the theoretical foundations on which it rests and arguing that this reconstructed theory of the double movement has the potential to be an important element of a 21st century critical theory. This reconstruction does not claim to be an accurate reflection of Karl Polanyi’s theoretical and political intentions when he wrote The Great Transformation. On the contrary, the intention is to use some of Polanyi’s ideas to create a theory that illuminates political possibilities immanent in the existing social order. The essay starts by laying out the broad outlines of the double movement idea, and then it elaborates the micro-foundations of the protective counter movement to explain how agents sometimes have the opportunity, the power, and the capacity to challenge and change the institutional structures of market societies. After examining barriers to the mobilization of a protective counter movement, the final section explores the possibilities of moving beyond the double movement.
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