Karl Polanyi's scholarship is interpreted in radically different ways. The "hard"
reading of Polanyi sees him as a radical socialist; the "soft" reading presents him
as a theorist of mixed economy. This article sides with the soft interpretation. It
uses Polanyi's biography to explain his theoretical "elusiveness," presents a novel
interpretation of his three types of economic integration, claiming all economies
are "mixed." While it acknowledges Polanyi as one of the major sources of world system
theory, it claims that Polanyi saw not only the dangers, but also the necessity and
positive consequences of globalization. Finally, it shows that, in spite of Polanyi's
life-long commitment to the political left, his scholarly work did not offer an apology
of socialism. Instead this article uses Polanyi's theory of economic integration to
build a critical political economy of state socialism.