Important parts missing The analyzes that identify economic forces as the engine of history remind us of the centrality of capitalism for Modernity. But this perspective misses important parts of the story. DeLong's account of the "long 20th century" is in direct dialogue with that of the great European historian Eric Hobsbawm, whose work The Age of Extremes was subtitled The Short 20th Century. 1914-1991. Hobsbawm's periodization was determined by his belief that contemporary history was defined by political events— the rise and fall of totalitarianism, in particular Soviet communism—rather than economic ones . Similarly, Polanyi was not just a critic of capitalism, but a radical reinterpreter: he insisted that its origins and development could only be understood through the lens of the "primacy of politics.
Polanyi argued that capitalism did not arise spontaneously south africa phone number list nor was it ultimately the consequence of the factors (globalization, research laboratories, modern companies) that DeLong emphasizes. Rather, Polanyi asserted that political decisions and changes were necessary for the transition to capitalism to occur, as well as to prevent capitalism from undermining social stability. Markets and capitalism Along with other economic historians such as Ferdinand Braudel , Polanyi understood that markets and capitalism were not the same. Markets are mechanisms for the exchange of goods that have existed throughout history. But capitalism only emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries, when European rulers began removing restrictions and creating the conditions for research, free trade, and business to flourish.
China, for example, may have had the most extensive market system in the world in early modern times. Its rulers, however, restricted crucial areas of economic activity, hindering the rise of capitalism, from which Europe instead became a global center of power. And not only the emergence, but also the development of capitalism was determined by politics. What a Polanyi-style approach to the "primacy of politics" makes clear is that, when capitalism operated almost unchecked by political authority—as during 1870-1914 and the neoliberal era—it generated not only economic crises but also widespread social unrest and political extremism.