Market, Capitalism and Hong Kong’s Future: The Relevance of Karl Polanyi and Fernand Braudel

Po Keung HUI

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Research


This paper draws on the insights of Karl Polanyi and Fernand Braudel on “capitalism” and “market” to analyze the experience and discourse of the economic development in Hong Kong, the role-model of “free market capitalism”, with a specific focus on the last two decades -- the so-called “neo-liberal” era. The first part of the paper re-reads Polanyi and Braudel in the midst of the current financial crisis and economic depression, aiming at teasing out a theoretical perspective for a better understanding of our past and current economy. The second part argues that, as evidenced in the persistence of anti-competition practices in many important markets (including the money, land, food and energy markets), the rise (or further expansion) of the self-regulating market has never taken place in Hong Kong during the neo-liberal period, and the equation that connects “capitalism” with “free market” is unsubstantiated. The third part of the paper, by taking a cultural economy approach that considers culture and economy as mutually constituting and constituted processes, discusses how the dominant discourses on “free market” and “capitalism” are perpetuated in spite of the fact that it is not borne out by empirical evidence. The analysis is focused on a case study -- the construction and dissemination of the “index of economic freedom” in Hong Kong in the past two decades. The final part of this paper proposes to go beyond the disciplinary boundaries between political economy and cultural studies, and to find a refreshed way of supplementing the political economy approaches with cultural studies perspectives so as to search for a revitalized understanding of “capitalism” and “market” to bring out its relevance to the future of Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2009
EventImproving the Human Destiny - Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 1 Jun 20091 Jun 2009


ConferenceImproving the Human Destiny
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
OtherInstitute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lingnan University


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