Working Paper 185

Embeddedness without Structure? An attempt at a Polanyian analysis of the Polish consumer-cooperative movement

Aleksandra Bilewicz

Department 'Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia'

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 185

This paper discusses Polish consumer cooperatives – informal consumer groups that have been emerging in the country since 2010 – in terms of the embedded economy as understood by Karl Polanyi. Following Polanyi’s understanding of the relationship between human economy and social institutions, I analyse reciprocity and redistribution as forms of integration in Polish consumer cooperatives. The structure and economic operation of these new consumer cooperatives is compared to pre-war Polish consumer cooperatives (organised into the national union Społem) that serve as a point of reference and inspiration for some of today’s cooperative activists. I argue that the present structure of consumer cooperatives does not provide a base for symmetry and centricity – “supporting structures” for reciprocity and redistribution – although some cooperatives offer solutions for those deficits. This paper also discusses the nature of class barriers in the contemporary and historical consumer-cooperative movements, relating this issue to the Polanyian notion of countermovement and class interest.

Go to Editor View