From Political Economy to Anthropology: Situating Economic Life in Past Societies


186 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895431-88-3
DDC 306.3





Edited by Colin M. Duncan and David W. Tandy
Reviewed by Barbara Lenes

Barbara Lenes is an Edmonton-based economist.


This collection of papers was presented at the Third and Fourth
International Karl Polanyi Conferences held in 1990 and 1992, and was
sponsored by the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy at
Concordia University in Montreal. The focus of the collection is on
fruitful areas of investigation suggested by Polanyi’s
interdisciplinary approach to the structure of developing market
economies—an approach that maintained that looking for
“capitalism” or “free markets” is a 19th-century idea that
obscures the social relations underlying observed behavior. Thus, the
authors represent several disciplines—economics, classics, history,
and anthropology—and look to Polanyi’s Great Transformation as
influential to their thinking. The most thorough papers are those on
markets and social reciprocity in ancient Greek society (Tandy, Neale,
Donlan, Morris), in pre-industrial Japan (Maruyama), in rural India
(Neale), and in modern suburban Kentucky (Halperin). Each paper tries to
present the current state of acceptance/disagreement with Polanyi’s
approach within the discipline.


“From Political Economy to Anthropology: Situating Economic Life in Past Societies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,