Karl’s Legacy | Polanyi on Polanyi


– Karl Polanyi died in 1964. My mother then cared
for the literary legacy, the translations, and publications, quite a few translations,
French to Spanish and so on. But when my mother died, that
responsibility came to me. I have no brothers or
sisters, and nobody else. And so, I really considered
as I will now concern myself with the literary legacy of my father, and I have been doing that ever since. My mother had her own
history, and it is a history of eminent participation
in the revolutions which put an end to the
first World War, 1918, specifically in the Hungarian Revolution. And she is known for her activities there. And when she died, the
Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa asked whether they could
please, would I permit them to have a funeral and give
her some estate owners and be buried in Hungary. I was totally amazed at this request, and I said, “Well, certainly not.” “However, eventually, I
know my mother and my father “will wish to rest in Budapest, “but first, you must honor Karl Polanyi, “as well as his wife, Ilona. “Probably the best way to do that “is to organize some event
respecting his scholarly work.” And with much negotiation,
this is exactly what happened. We managed to have a centenary conference in 1986, that is 100 years
from the birth of Karl Polanyi. By this time, I had invited a former student of
mine, Marguerite Mendell, whose thesis was about
the work of Karl Polanyi, to work with me. She assisted in organizing
that conference in Budapest. Incidentally, the politics were that I could invite only
international participants, but they, at that time, would invite the local
Hungarian participants. At this meeting, it was
really a moment of reflection, and I was very conscious of
the rise of Neo-Liberalism in it’s worst manifestation. This was the era of Thatcher and Reagan respectably implementing
those kind of policies about issuing progressive
taxation and all the rest of them, you know what they are. And said, “How can we continue this? “This can’t be a once-only conference.” And Margie Mendell then took to propose to her University at Concordia whether they would consider
hosting an institute, and that is what happened. And so, that institute was set
up at Concordia University. – The Karl Polanyi Institute.
– I made available on a loan basis the documents, and many years later, I think in 2017, I decided to donate this
collection to Concordia. It was a very nice event,
and there is a video in which I explain why I donated it not to Hungary or not to
Vienna, and not to Miguel, but to Concordia. And incidentally, it is,
I made a legal provision in that donation that they would continue to support the institute
for another 10 years, for at least 10 years,
so we have that in it. But other than that, I have no position, no formal position in the institute, no. People assume that because
I grew up in this home, and with always a close
relationship with my father on a personable, we always
had, with both of my parents, a good relationship,
that I learned something since I was so high from my father, I would follow in his
footsteps, of course. That really is not how it happened. I must’ve read “The Great Transformation”, but it was not the kind of revealing event that it was for many other people. I really begun to
appreciate my father’s work much more from the time from the 1980s on. That is partly because I became
much more familiar with it, but it also because I
think the times let us see for all the same reasons
that many other intellectuals within the social
sciences or in other areas have come to appreciate
the work of Karl Polanyi, I joined them in that appreciation. This book is a collection of essays that were assembled and
put between two covers as a book in 2013. And by that time, I really had noticed that the growth of the financial sector, finance, insurance, real
estate, within the economies of the advanced countries, was disturbing. Growth of various kinds
of financial assets, including derivatives of
original assets, and so forth, was of a scale that was, I think, significant, and that is why I coined this phrase of great financialization. I think since that time, it has become increasingly recognized in the Ontario Reports of
2018, ’17 and ’18, pointed out that the global economy is
driven by global finance now. That to quote it, “Is
not trade or technology, “but rather finance,” and
I am quoting more or less from the Ontario Report, “that
has been driving the world, “the global economy for
the past three decades,” quote/unquote. Now when I coined that
word, I was not aware, I think, of the significance
of having coined this phrase of great financialization. It has increased, because
what this is doing, in my view, it has,
for instance, destroyed what use to be the classic
American corporation. Classic American corporation
use to produce products, and sell them on an ever-increasing scale. It incidentally employed a lot of people and incidentally satisfied
a lot of consumers. That was the classic corporation
of the 1950s, ’60s or ’70s. But increasingly, this
has become financialized. Increasingly, the shareholders are financial conglomerates of various kinds, pension funds, investment funds, other kinds of financial funds, and yet this has come with the maximizing of shareholder value as
the metric of success of a corporation. Well, what could be more
financial than that? And it has had that effect of financializing the corporation. But it goes beyond that, as
Polanyi explained it will. If an economy is driving the society, the society then reflects that. Our societies, our households
then become financialized, the degree to which, yes, households are dependent on finance. Pensions are no longer
based on some average of the last years’ incomes, they are based on the earnings of the pension fund, with all it’s ups and downs. We know about all the
mortgage indebtedness, and student loans, and all the rest of it without going into detail. The fact is that whether it’s
the non-financial corporation or whether it is the household
sector of the economy, they have become
increasingly financialized. And then we come to the governments, and one of the problems
particularly noticeable in Europe is the degree national
governments have become dependent on the burn markets. And in the case of
Europe, they don’t even, they can’t even print
their own money anymore, they have the Euro. You have a, an economy that is increasingly,
as I say, financialized, and a society that is
increasingly short term views. And that goes along with
the information technology, and with the consumerism,
and this desire, somehow, of young people particularly,
to have immediate results, but not young people only. For everything to be
immediate, and that is, in my view, closely related
to financialization.