Repatriating Polanyi

Market Society in the Visegrád States
Author: 
ISBN: 
978-963-386-287-2
cloth
$70.00 / €62.00/ £55.00
Publication date: 
2019
388 pages

Karl Polanyi’s “substantivist” critique of market society has found new popularity in the era of neoliberal globalization. The author reclaims this polymath for contemporary anthropology, especially economic anthropology, in the context of Central Europe, where Polanyi (1886–1964) grew up. The Polanyian approach illuminates both the communist era, in particular the “market socialist” economy which evolved under János Kádár in Hungary, as well as the post-communist transformations of property relations, civil society and ethno-national identities throughout the region.

Hann’s analyses are based primarily on his own ethnographic investigations in Hungary and South-East Poland. They are pertinent to the rise of neo-nationalism in those countries, which is theorized as a malign countermovement to the domination of the market. At another level, Hann’s adaptation of Polanyi’s social philosophy points beyond current political turbulence to an original concept of “social Eurasia”.

List of Illustrations 
Preface: Forwards (n)ever! 
Note 
Acknowledgements 
Chapter 1
Introduction: Karl Polanyi and the Transformations of Socialism and Postsocialism 
Chapter 2
Market Principle, Marketplace and the Transition in Eastern Europe
Chapter 3
From Production to Property: Land Tenure and Citizenship in
Rural Hungary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Chapter 4
A New Double Movement? Anthropological Perspectives on Property in the Age of Neoliberalism 
Chapter 5
Awkward Classes in Rural Eurasia 
Chapter 6
Civil Society at the Grassroots: A Reactionary View
Chapter 7
Socialism and King Stephen’s Right Hand 
Chapter 8
Ethnicity in the New Civil Society: Lemko-Ukrainians in Poland 
Chapter 9
Postsocialist Nationalism: Rediscovering the Past in Southeast Poland
Chapter 10
Polish Civil Society, the Greek Catholic Minority, and Fortress Europe 
Chapter 11
The Visegrád Condition (Freedom and Slavery in the Neoliberal World) 
Chapter 12
Conclusion: Building Social Eurasia 
References
Index

With rare eloquence and integrity, Chris Hann has formulated a coherent (non-Eurocentric, plebeian and Polanyian) intellectual and moral-political perspective from which to view the consolidation of the neoliberal era in Central and Eastern Europe. Karl Polanyi prophesied that the imposition of “free markets” would risk “opening the door to the reintroduction of a crazy nationalism" (in Universal Capitalism or Regional Planning, 1945). While confirming Polanyi’s classic argument of the “countermovement,” Hann urges avoidance of the all too easy political and moral contempt expressed by local and global elite groups for the masses that have been pushed into a new dystopia. For this, not only critical scholars but also the inhabitants of places like Tázlár and Kiskunhalas owe Chris Hann a lot.
'Repatriating Polanyi' is a fascinating book that shows the relevance of Karl Polanyi (born and raised in the Habsburg Empire) to the study of socialist and postsocialist Eastern Europe. Polanyi – a major inspiration worldwide for all those who are critical of neoliberalism – is now "repatriated" by Chris Hann, who has deep ethnographic knowledge of provincial worlds in Hungary and Poland. This book is a must for all those interested in socialism, postsocialism, and the critical study of neoliberalism.
In this book, Chris Hann contends that Karl Polanyi’s intellectual repertoire is more relevant than ever. Long an insightful observer of Hungarian rural society, Hann makes a convincing argument by providing an invaluable selection of his writings old and new on the cultural and economic dilemmas faced by Polanyi’s compatriots over the last half century.
Chris Hann is a recognized anthropological expert on socialist societies, as well as on Karl Polanyi’s theory of economy embedded in social relations. In this book he applies this double knowledge to a study of the neoliberal postsocialist social formation that has emerged in the last three decades in the region of Polanyi’s origin. This repatriation of his ideas brings first-rate, critical interpretation of the processes currently unfolding in Central and Eastern Europe.
Relying on his vast knowledge of Hungary and Poland, Chris Hann demonstrates how ideas concerning property, nation, ethnicity, and religion persisted and played a role in the passage from socialism to postsocialism. This was carried through according to neoliberal principles and it had unexpected results. Hann constructs a powerful argument for Karl Polanyi’s vision of history, his notion of economy as instituted process in society, and his insistence on moral standards in orienting our world, and not only in the countries of Central Europe.
Three decades of postsocialism have been no “end of history.” Chris Hann guides us through the twists and turns of of postsocialist life in Central Europe, from Polish Greek Catholics to Hungarian Mercedes factories, never losing sight of the human drama. This is what anthropology is all about.
This insightful compilation brings together the author’s longstanding efforts to situate Karl Polanyi both at the heart of economic anthropology and also in his region of origin. Spanning topics such as property reforms, civil society, and diverse processes of belonging, the book has much to contribute to the analysis of the current historical moment. Grounded in nuanced ethnography, it will help students of Central and Eastern Europe to avoid the trope of negative othering, thereby opening novel perspectives on emergent futures.