The Idea of “Fictitious Commodities,” the Cornerstone of Karl Polanyi’s Institutionalism

The notion of “fictitious commodities” is not simply a convenient heterodox slogan to criticize the radical limits of any trade system and the analytical limits of the dominant theory. It is rather the foundation of the institutional perspectives that underlie all Karl Polanyi’s sociohistoric analyses. This article explains and articulates both the theoretical level using the institutional approach to commodities and a philosophical level using a broad definition of the economy. There is, however, a limit to the notion of the institution, which connects both levels: it is not articulated practically such that the potential and critique of this construct may be weakened.