Assuming that, since the development of capitalism, the authority on Society has been exercised by mainly two authorities, the State and the Market, the aim of this paper is to understand how to build a different organisational mechanism whereby Society is not subject to these two authoritative forms, positing the role of Society in order to achieve this aim.
The paper builds an interpretative framework using Karl Polanyi’s most influential concepts: the embeddedness, the fictitious commodities and the double movement. Through their development in the Great Transformation (published in 1944) Polanyi is able to explicate the unsustainability of the free-market system and the tension between the Market and Society that such unsustainability has caused. Nevertheless, Polanyi’s framework also has its limits, that led him to not predict the current neoliberal wave of the double movement.
Thus, through a history-based reinterpretation of Polanyi’s concepts, the paper clarifies the relationship among the State, the Market and the Society, unveiling the mutual relationship between the State and the Market and between the Market and the capitalist system itself. Following the reinterpretation, the paper sustains that the Market is an illegitimate but spontaneous authoritative tactic of government within the capitalist system, based on the central experiences of capital accumulation and commodification, that needs the State, or another legitimate institution, to be legitimate and to survive.
The paper concludes by sustaining that, in order to build an alternative organisational mechanism, Society has to initiate two parallel processes: it has to develop a tactic of government to reduce the authority of the Market within the institutional arena, by expanding into the State and it has to develop a tactic of action in order to progressively gain independence from both the authority of the Market and the State, by recovering the ownership of the conditions needed for life and its reproduction. Finally, the paper points out the relevance of this discussion for the development of further theories and practices in the urban context.