11th Annual Collegium Lecture: Prof. Nancy Fraser: Can society be commodities all the way down?; May 29, Helsinki

May 29 at 5:15 p.m.

11th Annual Collegium Lecture

Professor Nancy Fraser: Can society be commodities all the way down?

Venue: Porthania, lecture hall PIII, Yliopistonkatu 3, Helsinki.



In his classic 1944 book, The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi traced the roots of capitalist crisis to efforts to create “self-regulating markets” in land, labor, and money. The effect was to turn those three fundamental bases of social life into "fictitious commodities.” The inevitable result, Polanyi claimed, was to despoil nature, rupture communities, and destroy livelihoods. This diagnosis has strong echoes in the 21st century: witness the burgeoning markets in carbon emissions and biotechnology; in child-care, schooling, and the care of the old; and in financial derivatives. In this situation, Polanyi’s idea of fictitious commodification affords a promising basis for an integrated structural analysis that connects three dimensions of the present crisis, the ecological, the social, and the financial. This lecture explores the strengths and weaknesses of Polanyi’s idea.


Nancy Fraser is the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and Department Chair at the New School for Social Research in New York. Her work concentrates on social and political theory, feminist theory as well as contemporary French and German thought. As leading critical theorist and noted feminist thinker, Professor Fraser is well known for her work on social justice. Her early books Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory (1989) and Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the "Postsocialist" Condition (1997) are modern classics. Her recent work includes the book is Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World (2008) and the article Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History (New Left Review, 2009).


Organised by the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, www.helsinki.fi/collegium


Free admission. Welcome!