Modernity and the embedding of economic expansion

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The nationally-embedded and relatively broad-based economies characteristic of advanced industrial countries are usually seen as the incarnation of a modern economy. These economies are largely internally-oriented and are based, to a relatively great extent, on production and services centred on local and national needs. They are generally assumed to have emerged from processes of development that began in the sixteenth century and that, in the nineteenth century, accelerated with the expansion of industrial production and the growth of global trade. This article challenges that assumption. It argues that today’s modern economies represent, not the culmination of long-term processes, but a recurring phenomenon within capitalism. It argues that, in the history of capitalism, there have been phases of nationally-embedded and global free market capitalism -- periods when capital is relatively more, and relatively less, free from national state regulation. Today’s nationally-embedded economies represent, not a further point along a unilinear developmental trajectory, but a return to features of the moral economies that characterised European and non-European societies before the nineteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-190
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Issue number2
Early online date21 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

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