Globalisation, Transnational Intermediaries and the ‘Polanyi Problem'
In facing this challenge of transnational markets, the Polanyian perspective aims at an institutional analysis of the fundamental tensions within market society. Polanyi’s reconsideration of the embeddedness of market operations in non-market institutions provides arguments for perceiving the regulation of transnational markets as a contested process that strives for a socially viable demarcation of the market domain. In line with Polanyi’s reasoning, one may state that an often neglected feature of the social embeddedness of markets is the de-commodification of labour and possibly also other fictitious commodities, namely nature and money. This leads to an assessment of the Polanyian notion of the double movement of market expansion and social protection, which may be discussed in relation with the problem of governing transnational markets. The ensuing exploration of the role of embeddedness and commodification in related policy concerns informs Polanyian assessments of globalisation.
Given the limited steering capacity of nation-states and the unspecified status of global governance, transnational intermediaries may be sorted out as key actors in solving the Polanyi. However, one needs to be clear about their diversity of functions and roles in a continuum of dis-embedding and re-embedding operations. The empirical case of transnational intermediaries in the domain of environmental affairs provides a case in point.