Treble Troubles? Marketization, Social Protection and Emancipation Considered through the Lens of Slavery

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


In the face of the contemporary global economic and political crisis, there has been a renewal of interest in Karl Polanyi’s analysis of market societies as the product of a continuous process of contestation between forces pressing for the liberalisation of markets, and those seeking to protect the social fabric against marketization (the ‘double movement’). This includes Nancy Fraser’s (2013) critical appreciation of Polanyi, in which she calls for a third vector of analysis to be added to the ‘double movement’, namely the forces of emancipation. We need to think in terms of a ‘three-sided conflict among proponents of marketization, adherents of social protection, and partisans of emancipation’, she argues (2013: 129). However, reading Fraser’s discussion of the ‘triple movement’ through the lens of my current interest in slavery raised a number of questions that I want to pursue in this chapter. After outlining the background to Fraser’s contribution, the chapter considers white European and American thinking on transatlantic slavery historically, and, more briefly, the politics of those at the forefront of today’s antislavery movement. I aim to show that in the main, abolitionists were and remain hard to fix as proponents of either market freedom or social protection, or indeed of ‘emancipation’ as defined by Fraser. The post-abolition experience of freed slaves and their descendants in America further suggests marketization, social protection, and emancipation are not fully dis-articulable political forces. Though Fraser discusses some of the ambiguities of the three forces she identifies, political contestations around slavery draw attention to further equivocality in relation to each that, the chapter concludes, may make the idea of the triple movement less useful for those committed to a politics of non-domination than it may initially appear.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Commonalities of Global Crises: Markets, Communities and Nostalgia
EditorsChristian Karner, Bernhart Weicht
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9781137502735
ISBN (Print)9781137502711
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2016

Structured keywords

  • Migration Mobilities Bristol
  • slavery
  • emancipation
  • migration
  • mobility


  • Slavery
  • Polanyi
  • anti-slavery
  • marketization
  • social protection
  • emancipation


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