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15th International Karl Polanyi Conference

The Role of the State in the post-COVID 21st Century

Organized by the Karl Polanyi Institute in collaboration with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concodria University in Montreal, Canada.

Date: April 21, 8:00 am – April 24, 4:00 pm, online.

Keynote Speakers: Sheila R. Foster, Robert Kuttner, Ann Pettifor and Quinn Slobodian Registration Fees: Free for Students, $75 CAD + taxes More Information and Registration here! See the Program in .pdf or track it online.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires a reset and retooling of the state. It requires greater coherence between all levels of government and a reconfiguration of roles and responsibilities with the active participation of civil society. It requires greater international cooperation and a concerted action to fight rising nationalism.

Despite the diversity of governments in power, from authoritarian to liberal democracies, the global economic shock triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to active forms of state intervention, both piecemeal and more coordinated. Are we witnessing a “pendulum swing” from minimal state intervention to a publicly led social and economic transformation? As governments in liberal democratic states inject vast sums of money into public health, economic life support and stimulus strategies in response to the pandemic, does this signal the end of decades of savage cuts to public spending? And even if such actions by governments are diverse and fragmented, do they prefigure a deeper transformation toward state re-centralization and a commitment to restore public service provision, or even a different configuration and role of the state altogether? With countries in the global South lacking capacity to invest in health care due to the cost of servicing foreign debt, falling commodity prices and economic chaos, will there be increasing international pressure for debt forgiveness? The IKPS will participate in four events: Wednesday, 21st April: 11.15 AM – 12.15 PM (EDT/Eastern Time) "From the Globalization Trilemma to the Political Trilemma of a Social-Ecological Transformation“ with Daniel Rodrik and Andreas Novy

Friday, 23rd April, 1.30 PM – 3.00 PM (EDT/Eastern Time) “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Putting the Economy in its Place or Putting Democracy at Risk?” Round Table Discussion with Margaret Abraham, Michael Burawoy, Klaus Dörre, Maria Markantonatou and Brigitte Aulenbacher

Saturday, 24th April, 09.00 AM – 10.00 AM (EDT/Eastern Time) "Karl Polanyi – The works and life of an epochal thinker“ and „Karl Polanyi – Von der entfesselten Wirtschaft zur solidarischen Gesellschaft “: Book presentation and exhibition with Andreas Novy, Maria Markantonatou, Claus Thomasberger and Brigitte Aulenbacher

Saturday, 24th April, 12.45 PM – 02.00 PM (EDT/Eastern Time) “Care and Care Work: The COVID-19 Pandemic, the Limits of the Market and the Question of Social Responsibility” with Michael Fine, Brigitte Aulenbacher, Joan C. Tronto and Andreas Novy Panels for this four-day conference will reflect on the following key questions:

  • In liberal democracies, will post-COVID state intervention prioritize an equal, fair and just recovery or will today’s active crisis management quickly fade as governments face unimaginable budgetary deficits and public debt?

  • Will this global pandemic result in greater international cooperation between nations? Has any hope that vaccines would be equitably distributed as a global public good with the pooling of patents been dashed as countries and regions engage in vaccine nationalism and competition?

  • Can we envisage a global Green New Deal in response to the warnings of the UN IPCC that the world has ten years to avoid the irreversible impact of climate change? Or will governments return to national agendas as countries struggle to rebuild their economies?

  • Within countries, will the increasing role of regional and local governments be considerably diminished by the re-centralization of power taking place in many nations managing the pandemic crisis? Cities and local governments were given greater responsibilities pre-COVID and have demonstrated their capacity to act as catalysts for a just transition. Will the growth of the city as commons movement internationally be threatened by re-centralization of decision-making and a reduced role for civil society and local governments?

  • What role will counter-movements play, social movements and communities of mutual support for the common good in co-designing strategies for economic democracy, the decommodification of work and nature? Or will right wing populist movements continue to gain ground as they are in many parts of the world?

  • As events unfold, how will states address the pre-COVID realities of climate crisis, deepening racialized and gendered inequality, food insecurity, a migration and refugee crisis that has laid bare the cruelty of humanity?

  • Pre-COVID, we were concerned with the impact of the digital economy on all aspects of work and life, the growing number of precarious gig workers, zero hour employment with no access to social protection. The exponential increase in online transactions and digital platforms during the pandemic raises the urgency to address these questions. Is basic income the answer? What is the role of the labour movement? Are platform cooperatives a counter-movement to the privatization of the digital economy? What forms of regulation are required?

  • Will the domination of the digital economy and violation of privacy, security and basic labour rights by tech giants be met by coordinated international action?

Members of Karl Polanyi Research Centre will present in the following panels:

State, Market and Migration from a Polanyian Perspective (Part I)

12:30 PM, Wednesday 21 Apr 2021 (1 hour 30 minutes)

Check out the panel here.


Gareth Dale, Brunel University, UK. Marx, Polanyi and Europe's Migration Crisis.

Ulf Brunnbauer, University of Regensburg, Germany. Socialism and the Vicissitudes of Opening-Up.

Savas Michael-Matsas, Writer and Aristotelian University, Greece. Covid 19 Pandemic, Global Systemic Breakdown, and Migration Crisis.

Annamária Artner, Institute of World Economics (ELKH) and Milton Friedman University, Hungary. Will the Covid Change the Nature of Capitalism?

Chair: Attila Melegh, Corvinus University and Karl Polanyi Research Center for Global Social Studies, Hungary.

State, Market and Migration from a Polanyian Perspective (Part II)

9:00 AM, Friday 23 Apr 2021 (1 hour 30 minutes)

Check out the panel here.


Noémi Katona, Hungarian Academy of Science, Hungary. Pearls and Heroines from the East: Transnational Care Migration in Europe as an Unequal Exchange.

Petra Ezzeddine, Charles University, Czech Republic and Zuzana Uhde, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic. Care Corridors’: Dual Bordering Process of Care Migration in Central Europe.

Dóra Gábriel, Hungarian Demographic Research Institute, Hungary. Coping With Care Scarcity and Institutional Deficiency in Rural Hungary.

Attila Melegh, Karl Polanyi Research Center for Global Social Studies and Corvinus University, Hungary. From Socialist Mixed Economies to a Market Utopia. The Contradictions Related to Migration.

Chair: Chedly Belkhodja, Concordia University, Canada.

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