Whole Personhood and the Double Movement – Toward a Unified Framework. Introduction by Julianna Faludi
WHOLE PERSONHOOD & THE DOUBLE MOVEMENT ÷ A UNIFIED VIEW
THE CONCEPT OF WHOLE PERSONHOOD
Investigating how individuals navigate personal, public, economic, political, social and personal spheres is one of the means of understanding the dynamics that exist between the agency of individuals and those of the forces of structure. Furthermore, the economic field and the role of money and labor in it define the latter and the extent to which alienation extends and how individuals are restricted in their wholeness (in actions and choices). The concept of Whole Personhood departs from the approach of the role of labor by defining the individual's place in the socioeconomic system. For understanding how labor shapes the different formations of whole personhood, the authors of this book rely on the concept of commodification by Polanyi. The concept of whole personhood is not a universal mold that defines an ideal type of human existence, and it does not offer a radical restructuring of the system – rather, it is a frame based on choice, individual action, and a decommodified space for human existence.
To this end, we may need to reconsider the role of labor in the life of an individual and how the economic arrangements of capitalism define this across time (Chapter 4 by Varela & della Santa), as well as investigating digitization (Chapter 1 by Faludi, and Chapter 6 by Mols & Wijngaarden) and intersectionalities (Chapter 2 by Dén-Nagy, Chapter 8 by Pinto-López, Montaudon-Tomas and Yáñez-Moneda). Commodification, an expanding process, is capturing ever more physical space that is essential for human existence, including land (nature), thereby shrinking the array of choices (explored in Chapter 5 by Panico and Pascucci). Individuals navigating the pressure of collapsing spheres develop resilience (Chapter 9 by Tepavcevic) and expand their creativity (Chapter 7 by Guerra) as a result of their struggle for decommodified private spaces. The following sections will locate the concept of whole personhood within the frame of the double movement.
HOW THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION TRANSFORMS WHOLE PERSONHOOD
The Double Movement
Recognition of Polanyi’s seminal work, The Great Transformation (TGT), peaked by the beginning of the twenty-first century (Dale, 2010). We can identify the vast interest in conceptualizing the current transformations, marked by crises, by the third decade of this century based on Polanyi’s core concepts, as laid out in his book. TGT encompasses the story of market capitalism from its birth during the industrial revolutions in England to its growth and deepening global interconnectedness that ended in collapse in the 1930s. The main related conflict was derived from a dialectic process that Polanyi coined 'the double movement’ – a process that pushed markets to expand, but also to encounter emergent forces that would limit their influence – hence the countermovement. These forces have produced an array of societal arrangements shaped by various political economies. Polanyi concluded in TGT that liberal capitalism collapsed in the 1930s, while scholars since the post-WWII period have been examining the dimensions of liberal capitalism.
Disembeddedness was the concept used in TGT to describe the process which resulted in social relations becoming embedded in the economy, while before the deep transformative forces of commodification emerged, the economy was more integrated, thus embedded into society (Beckert, 2009). This suggests that, ideologically, the price-mechanism of the market regulates each and every sphere of human life, and humans must adjust – an extreme that may not be reached. The effects of disembeddedness, according to the meaning attached to it in TGT, were elaborated by Polanyi in a later work (1957) that suggested that as a consequence the distinct spheres of politics and the economy have subverted society.
The double movement as a synchronic and dialectic process (Goodwin, 2018: 1275) created unresolvable tensions within liberal economies, while the Great Depression acted as a catalyst for change, followed by governmental policies aimed at ameliorating the severe consequences thereof. Now globalization has evolved into its most profound and interconnected form, with the market integrating labor on a global scale. Despite the forces that are promoting the reorganization of regional systems of labor, new forms of precarity – particularly in the areas of digital work –indisputably challenge the global division of labor, as well as that of the household and the private sphere, and individuals are being called on to navigate this.
The ‘Soft’ and the ‘Hard’ Polanyi
To derive the two fundamental strands of scholarship that interpret the concept of embeddedness, we first need to locate the discourse about the double movement within the broader Polanyian framework. The ‘hard’ reading of Polanyi suggests a critical but reformist approach towards the radical interpretation of capitalism, resulting in its overthrow as an economic and political system. The ‘soft’ view of the double movement tends to accept the former as part of the natural dialectics of the capitalist system, associated with cycles of the disembeddness and re-embeddness of the economy into society, whereby market liberalization is followed or accompanied by decommodification in cycles that regulate access to processes of commodification (Goodwin, 2018), albeit not interconnected (Peck, 2013).
The ‘hard’ take on the double movement suggests that market capitalism is based on the fundamental contradiction of individuals’ ‘supportive’ social relations in society and the unlimited expansion of capitalist markets (Lacher, 1999; Levitt, 2006). It is also clear that the interpretation of the double movement depends on the particular path and position within the world system that the given economy takes. For example, Goodwin (2018) highlights that scholars may question the degree of decommodification that takes place before neoliberal reform in some economies – and that countermovements in Latin America have been social forces that emerged as a result of a developmentalist state, and are aimed at protecting vulnerable groups (thus being initiatives that defend against the dismantling of regimes or traditional customs, but could become offensive or destructive in nature in terms of creating new forms of organizing). From a methodological perspective the ‘hard’ view of the double movement is context dependent in its approach and toolkit, while the ‘soft’ view allows for the anchoring of milestones in series of events that help with analyzing unfolding processes.
Embeddedness – from Commodification to Networks
The fundamental difference in how the double movement is interpreted provides an understanding of how the two fundamental strands that elaborate the concept of embeddedness developed. The ‘hard’ reading focuses on the problem of commodification that results in disembedding the economy from societal relations. The ‘soft’ interpretation is based on Polanyi’s later work, the Economy as Instituted Process (Polanyi, 1957a), which suggests that the processes of economic and political organizing are embedded in the economy, thus are socially determined. Not until Granovetter (1985) was an efficient attempt to operationalize the concept of embeddedness made by elaborating the theory of social bridging across the spheres, with trust developing in networks. Economic exchange is a set of micro-interactions – the economy is built on the architecture of such trusted networks. Taking the concept further, Hess (2004) stressed that actors are defined by their cultural, social, etc. heritage, thus act in a socially embedded way. One great contribution of the scholarship on network embeddedness is how it has highlighted the positive and negative implications of social capital. Being based on trust and community formation, network embeddedness can be beneficial and efficient, but it may also lead to negative effects and distortions in the economy and harm to society, creating bottlenecks, criminal alliances, and environmental degradation (see Chapter 5 by Panico & Pascucci).
Overarching the concerns related to network embeddedness and its ‘soft’ contribution to understanding the micro- and meso-contextual elements of economic organizing, interest in the commodification-driven perspective about embeddedness is considered particularly relevant for understanding labor commodification processes in the context of great transformations (Wood et al., 2019).
THE CONNECTION OF EMBEDDEDNESS AND WHOLE PERSONHOOD
Labor and Commodification
Polanyi claimed when analyzing British economic history that the double movement started in the 1830s with the reform of British labor legislation (Dale, 2010). Until then, the process of the expansion of market relations and the commodification of human power resulted in labor; of nature in land; and in money becoming a unit of trade and source of capital accumulation – these processes unrestricted and indeed enabled by governmental forces. The expansion of the commodification of labor and land caused the dimension of ‘nature’ (including livelihoods, personal boundaries and lives, communities and households, personal and social time) to shrink – and also engendered economic threats such as unemployment, while the structural-existential threat of shocks points to the continuing relevance of revisiting questions connected to the regulation of labor and the meaning of work. The integration of labor into the market was an extremely powerful force in the wake of the twentieth century, but it is also in the twenty-first century in the context of the globalized division of labor and digital capitalism.
Whole personhood has a myriad of dimensions that must be considered when envisioning how to organize economic activity in order to balance the process of the (de)commodification of labor and creating conditions in which individuals can make choices and thrive. Theorizing these dimensions leads to the macro, meso, and micro-level investigations discussed in the present book.
To connect the dimensions of personal needs and organizational governance, Tortia and Sacchetti (Chapter 3) – in departing from the ‘soft’ reading of embeddedness and moving toward the Granovetterian frame that describes the role of social ties in forming the economy – propose a model of embedded governance. They argue that the precondition for self-realization in a context of production lies in institutional design which allows for the production of organizational routines that satisfy needs and involves interaction with the external societal environment. Old wine in a new bottle – new institutionalism meets the concept of embeddedness with a twist.
The precarity of digital work arrangements and the implications of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic are explored in Chapter 6 (Mols & Wijngaarden) on a particularly vulnerable group of young professionals, while in Chapter 7 (Guerra) describes how musicians are facing the challenge of the intersection of employment structures in cultural production with the market for cultural goods.
Working from home, particularly due to the enforced nature of this during the COVID-19 pandemic, has expanded previous discussions about the blurring boundaries between life and work. Simultaneous existence and activity in professional and private realities is what is described as the convergence and divergence of spheres by Mols and Wijngaarden (Chapter 6). Precarious positions are being enforced due to the need to work from home, in addition to other vulnerabilities.
Forms of Integration, Embeddedness, and Dysfunction in Society
Polanyi (1957) later suggested that economies organize themselves around three phenomena: redistribution, reciprocity, and market exchange. The main indicator of which of the latter is dominant depends on how societies access land, water, clothing, shelter, or income for daily sustenance.
Important here is understanding how markets are being organized. The main “transactional modes” or allocation systems that organize economies involve redistribution and reciprocity – these economic systems are indeed deeply social and cultural and tend to be embedded. With redistribution in the context of capitalism the market is the main institution, and the most disembedded form of this is laissez-faire market exchange.
The connection between the concepts of the double movement and forms of integration is the countermovements that aim at expanding forms of organization based on redistribution and reciprocity. A plurality of movements is characteristic of the double movement, rather than a singular process for or against the market – concludes Goodwin (2018, p. 1285).
The power of the theory with regard to economic integration and the countermovement may be illustrated by the case study of waste in Naples. Although Chapter 5, Land of Fires... (Panico & Pascucci) puts under scrutiny (through the lens of network embeddedness) the roots of the dysfunctionality of waste management, an interpretation that stems from ‘hard’ Polanyian scholarship confirms previous findings about the relevance of radical countermovements that aim at the decommodification of land and nature, the defense of heritage and vulnerable groups, and the creation of new forms of organizing – as summarized by Goodwin (2018).
Waste may be viewed from the logic of ‘production of use’ in the household system (analogous with the ancient Greek household) rather than ‘production for gain’ (the latter produced for market exchange and monetary purposes). Waste management should be part of the redistribution system organized by the state and local governance, with waste ideally being collected and managed without (or at least minimizing) environmental harm and health risks, similarly to with the non-market allocation systems. In the chapter Land of Fires, dysfunctionality stems from the corruption of the marketization of waste. The government assumes the role of price-making (following North, and classical institutionalists). There are no exactly defined property rights for waste, which is exchanged according to a specific market mechanism. These property rights in part should belong to the ‘producers of waste’ in terms of determining how waste is dealt with in a legal and non-harmful way – which is what the countermovement of locals and NGOs is trying to enforce. The ‘profits’ of the market exchange between the local government and the mafia and other illegal actors presently go into their pockets, so it is in their interest to maintain the market, using violence if necessary. Waste – if commodified – should be driven by fair exchange. Instead, the market for commodified waste harms local society and the environment. Therefore, this market is a classic example of disembeddedness – market interests involving violence to the detriment of people and environment.
The commodification of waste may also be a metaphor for nature when linked to land, according to Polanyi’s concept of fictitious commodities. The latter is not being produced and invested into, unlike a ‘normal’ commodity. The ‘legal’ market for waste is codified by legislation and approved by Rome. Waste is a fictitious commodity similar to land as it has an impact on the nature and the lands of communities – and in order to marketize waste, farmers’ land is involved.
Some societies may pretend such tension does not exist as a driver of migration (Chapter 9 by Tepavcevic); some societies prioritize one type of production over another, causing physical violence (Chapter 7, Pinto-López, Montaudon-Tom and Yáñez-Moneda); and some may believe that promoting both is achievable, and seek balance. We argue that “Contemporary societies that are shaped by digital capitalism in the social media age do not focus on biological human reproduction but on capital accumulation mediated by digital technologies” (Faludi & Crosby-Nagy, 2021). Further, during the pandemic the household returned to its original conceptualization as a firm, temporarily erasing and then re-creating a source of need fulfillment (Chapter 6 by Guerra), including by the corporation (Chapter 3 by Sacchetti & Tortia). Finally, we argue that if it is the case that a resolution of the tension between social reproduction and capital accumulation is what can contribute to or explain Polanyi’s forms of integration, then what is central in society is work, not the market (Chapter 4 by Varela and della Santa).
It is not the intention of the authors of this book to take a stand regarding the ‘soft’ versus ‘hard’ reading of Polanyi’s ideas, thus coming to conclusions about the need for reforming or overthrowing capitalism. It is our intention to unveil persistent patterns of economic and political organization that reproduce socioeconomic tensions. The following chapters shed light on how crisis-triggered shocks are enhancing contradictory forces of commodification and evoking countermovements that create new paths of existence.
Beckert, J. (2009). The social order of markets. Theory and Society, 38(3), 245–269.
Dale, G. (2010). Karl Polanyi: The Limits of the Market (1st ed.). Polity Press.
Engels, F. (1891). The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. In Marx & Engels Collected Works. 26, 129–276. Lawrence and Wishart.
Faludi, J., & Crosby-Nagy, M. (2021). The Digital Economy of the Sourdough: Housewifisation in the Time of COVID-19. TripleC, 113–124.
Goodwin, G. (2018). Rethinking the Double Movement: Expanding the Frontiers of Polanyian Analysis in the Global South. Development and Change, 49(5), 1268–1290.
Granovetter, M. (1985). 1985: Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness, American Journal of Sociology 91, 481-510.
Hess, M. (2004). ‘Spatial’ relationships? Towards a reconceptualization of embeddedness. Progress in Human Geography, 28(2), 165–186.
Lacher, H. (1999). Embedded Liberalism, disembedded markets: Reconceptualising the pax Americana. New Political Economy, 4, 343–360.
Levitt, K. P. (2006). Keynes and Polanyi: The 1920s and the 1990s. Review of International Political Economy, 13(1), 152–177.
Peck, J. (2013). For Polanyian Economic Geographies. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 45(7), 1545–1568. https://doi.org/10.1068/a45236
Polanyi, K. (1957a). The Economy as Instituted Process. In Trade and Market in the early empires: Economies in history and theory. The Falcon’s Wing Press.
Polanyi, K. (1957b). Trade and Market in the Early Empires: Economies in History and Theory. The Free Press.
Wood, A. J., Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, V., & Hjorth, I. (2019). Networked but Commodified: The (Dis)Embeddedness of Digital Labour in the Gig Economy. Sociology, 53(5), 931–950.
Julianna Faludi PhD is a sociologist and writer. She is interested in the relationship of technology, society and the arts, and ethical consumption. Her background is in economic sociology, development studies, and humanities. As a professor she has a track record in lecturing courses in Innovation, Branding, the Arts, Russia studies, and Sociology. Beforehand she worked with regional development in different roles. Julianna has experience in broadcasting, giving talks, and writing. She masters several languages, Russian, Italian, English, French and Hungarian.
Julianna Faludi All rights reserved. You may not take images or content or replicate any of the content from this site without written permission.udi juliann