14 February 2011

The great transformation - selected quotes

On the nineteenth century:
"Nineteenth century civilization rested on four institutions. The first was the balance-of-power system which for a century prevented the occurrence of any long and devastating war between the Great Powers. The second was the international gold standard which symbolized a unique organization of world economy. The third was the self-regulating market which produced an unheard-of material welfare. The fourth was the liberal state. Classified in one way, two of these institutions were economic, two political. Classified in another way, two of them were national, two international. Between them they determined the characteristic outlines of the history of our civilization"
"The nineteenth century produced a phenomenon unheard of in the annals of Western civilization, namely, a hundred years' peace - 1815-1914. Apart from the Crimean War - a more or less colonial event - England, France, Prussia, Austria, Italy, and Russia were engaged in war among each other for altogether only eighteen months. A computation of comparable figures for the two preceding centuries gives an average of sixty to seventy years of major wars in each. But even the fiercest of nineteenth century conflagrations, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, ended after less than a year's duration with the defeated nation being able to pay over an unprecedented sum as an indemnity without any disturbance of the currencies concerned."

Replace 'gold standard' with 'the Financial system':
"With the international gold standard the most ambitious market scheme of all was put into effect, implying absolute independence of markets from national authorities. World trade now meant organization of life on the planet under a self-regulating market, comprising labor, land, and money, with the gold standard as the guardian of this gargantuan automaton. Nations and peoples were mere puppets in a show utterly beyond their control."

The breakdown of our civilization:
"But if the breakdown of our civilization was timed by the failure of world economy, it was certainly not caused by it. Its origins lay more than a hundred years back in that social and technological upheaval from which the idea of a self-regulating market sprang in Western Europe. The end of this venture has come in our time; it closes a distinct stage in the history of industrial civilization"

The great transformation, the political and economic origins of our time, Karl Polanyi

No comments: