What Polanyi Teaches Us about the Platform Economy and Structural Change

23 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2020

See all articles by Martin Kenney

Martin Kenney

University of California, Davis

John Zysman

University of California, Berkeley

Dafna Bearson

University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: August 2, 2020

Abstract

The rise of the platform economy marks the latest phase in the ongoing digital revolution. Indeed, the platform is to this digital era what the factory was to the industrial era, both a symbol and an organizing mechanism. Gernot Grabher and Jonas König (2020) used Karl Polanyi’s analysis of what he termed the “great transformation” to frame the rise of platform economy. The platform economy is remarkable as it confirms Polanyi’s (and Marx’s before him) insight that the reach of the market is based upon increased commodification as it has been able to reach into ever more parts of social life. We introduced the term “platform economy” in 2015 because we recognized that the digital platforms were changing the dynamics of capitalist accumulation – an analysis framed by regulationist school of political economy. The intuition was that the socio-technical innovation of digital online platforms was the critical fulcrum for an economic restructuring that would rewire the flows of data and ultimately money and power. The firms we have termed the mega-platforms, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, have become the most valuable and powerful firms in the world. Importantly, the reach of these platforms is global and yet local and personal. Moreover, platform power has been reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Platform economy, Polanyi, Great Transformation

JEL Classification: L86, M13

Suggested Citation

Kenney, Martin and Zysman, John and Bearson, Dafna, What Polanyi Teaches Us about the Platform Economy and Structural Change (August 2, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3678967 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3678967

Martin Kenney (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis ( email )

Community and Regional Development Unit
Davis, CA 95616
United States
5305745943 (Phone)

John Zysman

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Dafna Bearson

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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