The Great Transformation: Looking back on Kenya’s economy to examine the spaces for alternative economies today
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The purpose of this research is to make anthropological sense of the numerous movements that have occurred in Kenya’s small-scale tea industry through a reconstruction of Karl Polanyi’s theory of the ‘double movement’. Although Polanyi’s work is with regards to Europe in the nineteenth century, his theories on countermovement and protectionism still remain an effective framework within which to analyse the last century of economic change and progress in Kenya. The framework is used as a mechanism to describe events in Kenya that contributed to commodification, recalling the lasting impacts of the colonial period which are inextricably felt in the present day. Further to this, Polanyi’s framing of the double movement is a useful paradigm within which to study alternative economic spaces. Parallels are drawn between the literature on ‘alternatives’ and the ‘double movement’. Against the backdrop of discussion on capitalism, globalisation and liberalism, this study contributes to the body of knowledge surrounding ‘alternative’ spaces. Using the case study, it finds the notion of alternative to be subjective and dynamic. It finds that some elements of being alternative are more an extension of the market economy rather against it, the term in some cases is used poorly which masks numerous elements of non-alternative or mainstream ideals.