A Year of Change? IKPS Review and Forecast


This year has been an excellent year for the International Karl Polanyi Society.
In May, only one year after our foundation, we organized a large transnational  conference (“Karl Polanyi for the 21st century”) in Budapest and Vienna. This five-day conference, organized together with the Karl Polanyi Center for Global Social Studies at the Corvinus University of Budapest with more than 100 speakers and nearly 400 participant-submissions was a milestone in strengthening the Polanyi community as well as efforts to elaborate socio-economic alternatives to unfettered market society. Read our Review and see pictures of our conference here or watch Dani Rodrik’s talk on the globalization’s wrong turn

In October, IKPS Board-Members Andreas Novy, Brigitte Aulenbacher, Veronika Heimerl and Richard Bärnthaler won the prestigious Kurt-Rothschild-Award for their contribution “Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation and Contemporary Capitalism: Putting the Economy in its Place”. The award ceremony took place on November, 7th

It is no easy task to do good work – and communicate it well. And this is not the strengths of academics. Therefore, it is a pleasure to inform you that, from now onwards, Melissa Erhardt will take care of communication activities of IKPS, of the regular information on and documentation of our activities.

The first results are already visible: we updated our Website, where you can now find publications, articles and galleries on our events and a reworked surface. We invite you to take some time and simply scroll through it. We added videos (e.g. Dani Rodrik´s Talk on Karl Polanyi and the Globalization’s wrong turn), older interviews (e.g. with Kari Polanyi Levitt on the past and future of the great transformation), publications and galleries of different events (e.g. the Kurt-Rothschild award ceremony). We also updated information about IKPS, staff and board members.


2020 might become a year of change. At the global level, elections in the USA in November can stop reactionary politics based on a dangerous, but effective alliance of neoliberalism with cultural conservativism and climate change denialism. The Green New Deal is a powerful vision for a great transformation – but a transformation built “from below”: Will it be successful electorally? Austria has become an infamous forerunner of right-wing populism and governance. In 2020, a new government of conservatives and Greens will substitute a coalition government based on right-wing populism with reactionary and authoritarian traces. It most probably will end the hollowing out of public institutions and constitutionally guaranteed human rights. But will it be able to elaborate a viable economic alternative for a democratic and just transition to avoid the erosion of social cohesion and the escalation of the climate crisis? 

In both cases, and in many other places, the challenge consists in, first, stopping reactionary countermovements and, second, elaborating progressive alternatives that effectively “put the economy in its place”. Without viable alternatives, opposition to right-wing radicalization will remain defensive – preventing the worst, but unable to offer effective alternatives to the unrestrained power of large corporations, the undermining of the rule of law, a backlash in gender relations and a cynical acceptance of climate catastrophies.

What is urgently needed is an alternative socio-economic model that puts market economy in its place with the help of effective democratic state institutions and creative civil society initiatives – a “bottom up” Green New Deal. IKPS will take up the task to make academic and educational contributions for building such diverse and decentralized economies that enable a good life for all within planetary boundaries. We will try to achieve this with new partnerships – together with the degrowth movement, social and solidarity economy, the scientific community and adult education. Join and support us! 

Degrowth 2020 – Strategies for Social-Ecological Transformation
In May 2020, the Degrowth-Conference is taking place in Vienna, which the IKPS is co-organizing together with different Viennese Universities, Attac and Degrowth Vienna. In four days, the aim of the conference will be to generate outcomes for the degrowth movement and the scientific community by integrating different kinds of existing expertise and elaborating promising approaches to transform the economy in a socially just and ecologically viable way.
Countermovements Lecture Series (2020/2021)
Starting in October 2020, the IKPS will be co-organizing the Countermovements” Lecture Series in Vienna and Linz. Together with JKU Linz, TU Vienna, WU Vienna, the Chamber of Labor Vienna, VHS, the Society for Politics of Culture and the Institute for Applied Development Politicsthe lecture series takes up Karl Polanyi’s notion of “countermovements” to develop alternatives to an out-of-control capitalist market economy. In The Great Transformation, Polanyi defined “countermovements” as a reaction to universal commodification and the resultant transformation into a “market society”. According to Polanyi, “countermovements” offer a way to protect the natural and social base of human civilisations against the destructive effects of unfettered market expansion.
The Lecture Series will be divided into two parts: The first term (autumn 2020) will be dedicated to “Countermovements, Capitalism and Democracy”. It will reflect on current trends towards authoritarianism and social struggles about the democratization of society.
In spring 2021 the series will focus on “Countermovements: putting economy in its place”, taking a closer look at socio-economic alternatives .
The Series will be accompanied by a circulating exhibition on Karl Polanyi´s life and oeuvre organized by the IKPS.

Our Reading Circle on Quinn Slobodian’s “Globalists. The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism” will continue on January, 7th with Chapters 3 and 4. For more information, see our Facebook Event or click here.

The IKPS is also going to host a Reading Circle on Karl Polanyi starting on March, 12th. More information will be available soon.

Also in March, the 4th Polanyi International Seminar: “From the great transformation to the eco-social transition. New solidarities in action” will take place in Paris France.


Andreas Novy, Melissa Erhardt