Karl Polanyi against postcolonial theory: beyond Eurocentric anti-Eurocentrism

Eren Duzgun

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Postcolonial theory has been at the forefront of attempts to remedy the problem of Eurocentrism. This article argues that postcolonial theory has not progressed far enough in successfully treating the problem of Eurocentrism, for it has not sufficiently abided by its own methodological underpinnings, i.e., it has not satisfactorily developed its own critique of the “presentist” conceptions of history. More precisely, postcolonial theory has not shown how to make a complete departure from the methodologically presentist conceptions of capitalism, which, in turn, limits our ability to overcome hierarchical readings of global modernity. To problematize and fill this gap, I take an unconventional tack, turning to a seldomly cited figure in debates on Eurocentrism: Karl Polanyi. I contend that although Polanyi places the origins of capitalist modernity in Europe, his historical sociology provides an alternative and more definitive solution for presentism and Eurocentrism. Polanyi’s rejection of the “economistic” and “dualistic” understandings of human life, his insistence on the commonality and diversity of human degradation in the face of capitalist modernity, and his historically specific conception of the “counter-movement” enable a decidedly non-presentist, non-triumphalist, and non-hierarchical narrative of the genesis and development of the modern present.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDialectical Anthropology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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