Disruption, embedded. A Polanyian framing of the platform economy



Disruption, embedded. A Polanyian framing of the platform economy

Prof. Gernot Grabher

HafenCity University Hamburg

Economic geographer and Professor of Urban and Regional Economic Studies at the HafenCity University Hamburg. He received his Ph.D. in 1987 at Vienna University of Technology, and held positions at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), King's College London, the University of Konstanz and the University of Bonn. Grabher was Visiting Professor at Columbia University, Copenhagen Business School, Santa Fe Institute, Cornell University and the Institute of Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Between 2007 and 2011 he was co-editor of Economic Geography. Currently, he is co-editor of the Regions and Cities book series of the Regional Studies Association. Gernot Grabher is internationally renowned for his research on networks, regional evolution and decline, and project organization.


Analyst DELab UW


Digi­tal plat­forms disrupt — not just incum­bent indu­stries, but also aca­de­mic ima­gi­na­tions abo­ut the futu­re cour­se of capi­ta­lism. Whi­le some scho­lars envi­sion the next gre­at trans­for­ma­tion towards the ulti­ma­te mar­ke­ti­za­tion, others anti­ci­pa­te a post-capi­ta­lism based on digi­tal­ly revi­ta­li­zed notions of com­mu­ni­ty and reci­pro­ci­ty. Star­ting from this con­tro­ver­sy, the artic­le advan­ces a Pola­ny­ian per­spec­ti­ve to push bey­ond the osten­si­bly anta­go­ni­stic dyna­mics of more or less the mar­ket. More spe­ci­fi­cal­ly, the emer­gen­ce of digi­tal plat­forms is per­ce­ived from the angle of three key dri­vers that pro­pel­led the gre­at trans­for­ma­tion towards mar­ke­ti­za­tion: tech­no­lo­gy, scien­ce, sta­te. Whi­le the bre­ak-thro­ugh of mar­ke­ti­za­tion, in Polanyi’s view, was promp­ted by the ste­am engi­ne, the emer­gen­ce of plat­forms is dri­ven by the digi­tal infra­struc­tu­res of clo­ud com­pu­ting, big data, and algo­ri­thms; and whi­le mar­kets were scien­ti­fi­cal­ly legi­ti­mi­zed by eco­no­mics, plat­forms deploy network the­ories that, thro­ugh the­ir far-reaching appli­ca­tion, per­form social reali­ty. Just like mar­kets, howe­ver, plat­forms are nothing natu­ral but are objects of ongo­ing poli­ti­cal con­te­sta­tions that for­ge the embed­ding of the plat­form eco­no­my into the regu­la­to­ry fra­me­work of society.

A series of Polish-language meetings during which researchers and guest speakers look at issues related to digital transformation, new technologies, innovation and digital research methods.

The aim of the "Digitisation under the closer look of science" seminars is to build cooperation between academia, the public sector and business. Scientists share their research findings and have the opportunity to discuss them with experts. The results of their work are available on the DELab UW website.

Disruption, embedded. A Polanyian framing of the platform economy
HafenCity University Hamburg
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