Lawyers' Empire and The Great Transformation

Research output: Working paper


Writing through the years of World War II and attempting to understand its horrors, the carnage of World War I, the great depression, and the rise of communist and fascist regimes, Karl Polanyi posited that Western Europe had undergone The Great Transformation through the nineteenth century. Built around policies of economic liberalism and the gospel of the self-regulating market, this transformation had produced a century of unparalleled peace and material wealth in Europe, but the unmooring of the market from other social forces, and the remaking of land and labour as commodities, would unleash, when the buttressing pillars faltered, the calamities of the twentieth century. Those pillars — the balance-of-powers system among European nations, the liberal state, and the gold standard — had functioned to preserve the peace, extend democracy, and facilitate international trade, but they played supporting roles. According to Polanyi, “the fount and matrix of the system was the self-regulating market.”

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2016

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