About us

About us

The International Karl Polanyi Society (IKPS) is an association of engaged citizens, researchers, teachers, activists, journalists and professionals from diverse policy fields based on the rich intellectual, moral and political legacy of Karl Polanyi and the vivid scientific and public debates he has inspired.

Putting the economy in it's place

The International Karl Polanyi Society (IKPS) aims at putting the economy in its placeThe “economy”, a sphere of social life that should organize the livelihood so that people can live well, has become the dominant societal domain, intruding in all spheres of life in an aggressive, “imperialist” way. Hospitals, schools and care centers “commercialize” their services, researchers “sell” their knowledge; companies “buy” CO2-emission rights, politicians manipulate the “electoral market”. The economistic language is instructive for a society that is losing its sense of social responsibility, citizenship and democratic zeal, increasingly subordinating everything to the economistic rationale of optimizing.


Crucial issues for our common future

IKPS will counter this civilization shift. It aims at putting the economy in its place again, as a serving, alimental and supportive activity in a flourishing social, cultural and ecological civilization. To counter the currently dominant market society, it is decisive to understand the deep changes our societies are undergoing. In line with Karl Polanyi´s reasoning, three issues are crucial in shaping our common future:

Freedom for all in a complex society

Current market society celebrates individual freedom to choose. While acknowledging the virtues of non-conformism and market freedom, this economistic dominance is endangering the positive freedom to live in a democratic society, which shapes its future collectively. A democratic mode of living needs to strike the balance between the individual right to choose and the societal necessity of a democratic polity to create rules and infrastructures that enable freedom for all.

The future of civilization

Karl Polanyi was worried about how humankind will survive the perils of industrial civilization. Today, genetic and biological engineering as well as digitalization are inspiring dystopian futures of total control and bio-physical destruction. As no return to a past before the machine age is possible, a burning question for the future of our civilization is on the table: Will humankind be able to use, steer and regulate technology in a democratic and civilized way, avoiding authoritarian versions of global market control?

Understand and shape alternatives to the market society

by strengthening and popularizing pluralist economies and experimenting with democratic forms of governance inspired by Karl Polanyi. The IKPS invites entrepreneurs, trade union members, researchers, activists and citizens to experiment with social innovations that go beyond the current market society and organize the livelihood by integrating social, ecological, cultural and economic needs. It invites politicians, policy makers, researchers, activists and citizens to rethink the “political” as the domain that deliberates on and shapes the common good, democratically and collectively.

In the upcoming years, the activities of the IKPS will focus on understanding and shaping the contemporary transformations in the fields of:

Further reads

For a more detailed explanation of our aims and structures, continue reading:

>> the IKPS Background Paper “Putting the Economy in its Place” written by board-member Claus Thomasberger
>> the IKPS Founding Declaration