The Structural Transformation of Embeddedness
PP. 85 – 104 in Josef Falke, Christian Joerges (Eds.): Karl Polanyi, Globalisation and the Potential of Law in Transnational Markets (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2011).
25 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2010 Last revised: 3 Sep 2014
Date Written: November 29, 2010
The concept of embeddedness plays a central role in the segment of economic sociology and social theory which is inspired by the works of Karl Polanyi. But to the extent that embeddedness is understood in a substantialist manner, implying the existence of a unitary lifeworld, the desire for embeddedness is an impossible aspiration under modern conditions. Throughout the modern era it is however possible to observe the emergence of complex societal stabilization mechanisms, which serve as substitutes to traditional forms of embeddedness. The emergence of function specific cultures, in the form of, for example, legal, political and scientific cultures, establishing a ‘second nature’ in the Hegelian sense, is one example of this. Other examples are (neo-)corporatist institutions which fulfilled a central stabilising role in classical modernity and the kind of network based governance arrangements which fulfil a similar position in today’s radicalised modernity.
Keywords: Polanyi, embeddedness, dis-embeddedness, culture, Hegel, systems theory, economic sociology, corporatism, networks, Kjaer, lifeworld, modernity, globalisation, state and society, functional differentiation, Luhmann, substantialism, re-embedding, stratification, economy and society
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