Kari Polanyi Levitt

Emerita Professor of Economics, McGill University, Montreal – Canada

Roy Culpeper, former President of the North-South Institute and currently a Senior Fellow of the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies, and Adjunct Professor at the School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University, reviews From the Great Transformation to the Great Financialization for the Broadbent Institute here.

“From the Great Transformation to the Great Financialization: on Karl Polanyi and Other Essays” by Kari Polanyi, with an afterword from Samir Amin

Cover-Levitt-From-Great-TransIn Canada, Kari Levitt is known for her path-breaking study Silent Surrender (1970, 2002), which warned of the consequences of permitting industries to be dominated by multinational corporations. In the Caribbean the author is known for her work on the persistence of the Plantation Economy (2009), from slavery to the present. In From the Great Transformation to the Great Financialization, Kari Levitt draws on the insights of her father Karl Polanyi’s classic The Great Transformation to set the financial crisis of 2008 in the perspective of the predatory financialization of the Western heartlands of capitalism. The author traces the return of capitalism to its mercantilist origins in commerce and conquest, and the return of Asia to the stage of world history in the autumn of American empire. The most surprising aspect of the on-going multi-faceted global crisis has been the resilience of the South in resuming strong economic growth compared with the inability of Western governments to save the economic livelihoods of millions.

“…the continuities of scholarly approach and of substance shine through with a light that illuminates past, present and potential future.”

— Norman Girvan, University of the West Indies

“This extraordinary volume from Kari Polanyi Levitt is a must read and provides a unique window on the thinking of Karl Polanyi, demonstrating the relevance of his ideas to the challenges of the 21st Century.”

— James Putzel, London School of Economics

“The author’s approach reveals the striking contrast between the power of the historical method and the sterility of conventional economic theory based on trans-historical rationality.”

— Samir Amin, Third World Forum

“Kari Polanyi Levitt has made an important contribution to the understanding of the role of emerging nations in moving toward a more equitable multipolar world.”

— José Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University

“Kari Polanyi Levitt demonstrates how Karl Polanyi… offers an alternative policy framework for our time— one steeped in humanism, social democracy, and environmental sustainability.”

— Roy Culpeper, Carleton University

To order:

Canada: http://fernwoodpublishing.ca/page/Ordering

US & International: http://zedbooks.co.uk/node/326

The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi

The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi

Edited by Kari Levitt


Karl Polanyi believed that the greatest threat to freedom was a poorly administered economy. His search for economic and political institutions which reconciled society’s need for freedom to develop a moral sense, with the requirements of our complex technological civilization, led him to believe a possibility and necessity of an economics that was more existential and human-centered. He did not underestimate the significance of livelihood to lives; he recognised that an inadequate quantity of the former was detrimental to the quality of the latter. He emphasized nonetheless that beyond sufficent livelihood, preoccupation with the pursuit of even more economic wealth greatly erodes the quality of human existence.

Although the principal concern of this book is in developing that thinking for its significance to the practice of economies and everyday life in democratic societies, it also treats the life of Polanyi from a perspective that conveys an impression of the man, his times, and his place in the evolution of social and economic thought.

“Economics has to return to some very basic questions of use value and exchange value. We have to take into account the real value of human effort and work, and that is very different from its market value. We have to protect nature and our social and cultural heritage. People do not like to be valued and respected only for the income which they can earn, and to be totally disrespected if they are not able to earn income for whatever reason.” From Development and Regionalism Karl Polanyi’s Ideas and the Contemporary World System by Professor Kari Levitt.

1990*264 pages*photographs
ISBN: 0-921689-80-2
Hardcover ISBN: 0-21689-81-0

The Critical Tradition of Caribbean Political Economy: The Legacy of George Beckford

Edited by Kari Levitt and Michael Witter

Colleagues and former students of George Beckford continue critical essays on the plantation paradigm which still has relevance in the Caribbean. The volume not only celebrates the work of Beckford but also proposes an agenda of research in order to reintroduce some of the central themes of the critical tradition to which Beckford made seminal contributions on the socio-economic development of the region.


Reviewed in the New West Indian Guide, Vol. 73.

1996 • 314 pages • 6 x 9 •
ISBN 976-8100-91-5
Paperback • US $15.00

The George Beckford Papers

The George Beckford Papers

Selected and Introduced by Kari Levitt


“George Beckford’s work is characterized by a remarkable consistency of purpose and vision…This collection presents the unfolding of George Beckford’s work from agricultural economics to political economy, to the social economy of ‘man space’, to the cultural roots of Caribbean creativity and a vision of one independent, sovereign and self-reliant Caribbean nation…His purpose was to reveal the legacy of dispossession orginating in the slave plantation experience of African people in the New World; to ‘free the mind’ from the internalization of attitudes of inferiority and ‘Afro-Saxon’ mimicry. His vision was the affirmation of the culture of ‘overcoming’ rooted in the Caribbean ‘peasantry’ and the land.”
From the Introduction of The George Beckford Papers Professor Kari Levitt.

ISBN 976-8125-40-3 Paper
ISBN 976-8125-75-6 Cloth
540pp 6 x 9
US$ 27.00 (s) Paper
US$ 40.00 (s) Cloth

Karl Polanyi in Vienna: The Contemporary Significance of the Great Transformation

Karl Polanyi in Vienna

Edited by Kari Levitt and Kenneth McRobbie


Karl Polanyi’s belief that the greatest threat to freedom was a poorly administered economy led him to an economics that was more existential and human-centered. Part I of this book develops Polanyi’s thinking for its significance today through a selection of papers on re-reading his major work entitled The Great Transformation. Part II looks at the life and work of Ilona Duczynska (Polanyi’s wife), political activist, writer and translator and important influence over Karl and his work.


“It is because basic human needs of security, affection, respect and protection have no place in formal economics that the transformation of the capitalist order requires a new calculus of the value of work, the value of human needs, and the value of nature. When economic decisions have to be made, the underlying value system must be one that accords with the realities of real people living in real socieites, one that acknowledges our very real dependence on the natural environment and its very real limitations.” From Development and Regionalism, Karl Polanyi’s Ideas and the Contemporary World by Professor Kari Polanyi Levitt.

Silent Surrender

Silent Surrender

Silent Surrender The Multinational Corporation in Canada


First published in 1970, Silent Surrender has educated two generations of Canadians about political economy and corporate rule. Professor Kari Levitt details the historical background of foreign investments in Canada, their acceleration since World War II, and the nature of intrusions by multinational corporations into a sovereign state. Now a Canadian classic, this book was republished in 2003.proscription.

2002* 250pp
Paper ISBN 0773523251
US $27.95
Cloth ISBN 0773523111
US $80.00

Reclaiming Development

Reclaiming Development

Independent Thought and Caribbean Community
Kari Levitt
For over 20 years, the developing world has been adjusting to the agendas of the IMF and the World Bank. In the 1990s Structural Adjustment Programmes were repackaged and marketed as the coming of the golden age of globalisation, promising benefits to countries that adopt neo-liberal policies. Whether by conviction or apparent absence of viable alternatives, Caribbean governments have been quick to implement policies of Deregulation, Liberalisation and Privatisation. In this they have been supported by Caribbean intellectuals who have been equally quick in embracing globalisation and too ready to concede the end of national sovereignty.
In this collection of 15 papers prepared and presented in a variety of fora and spanning a period of 30 years, Kari Levitt argues that it is time to reclaim the right to development and the right of nations to engage in the international economy on their own terms. She advocates an international rules-based order which permits space for member countries to follow different and divergent paths to development according to their own philosophies, institutions, cultures and societal priorities. This collection represents a historic sweep of Caribbean thought and personalities over the past 30 years drawn against the background of the changes in the international political economy. Whether in her collaboration with Lloyd Best on the Plantation Economy model, her analyses of Debt and Adjustment, or her insistence on the right of sovereign nations to pursue their own development path, Kari Levitt remains consistent in her conviction that development, whether of individuals or nations, must be rooted in time and place and cannot be imposed by external proscription.

“There is a crying need for creative thinking and new initiatives to protect the gains of development from devastation by financial hurricanes fed by institutional investors who freely move funds in and out of countries at the tap of a keyboard with no responsibility for the impact of their operations on host countries.”
Reclaiming The Right To Development. Professor Kari Levitt.

2005 • 420 pages • 6 x 9
ISBN 976-637-143-1
Paperback US$25.00