It has been widely assumed that market mechanisms are central in incentivizing the development of sustainable innovations and that market formation is critical for the diffusion of innovations. We challenge the centrality of markets in understanding and promoting the development and diffusion of sustainable innovations using the case of the System of Rice Intensification.
This innovation for sustainable rice cultivation was developed and diffused without relying on market mechanisms yet has been adopted by millions of farmers worldwide. To further our understanding of economic mechanisms beyond markets, we revisit Polanyi’s distinction between markets, reciprocity, redistribution, and subsistence. This distinction helps to situate markets in a broader economic context and helps to understand how mechanisms for market exchange intersect with other types of economies in ways that can either positively or negatively affect sustainability.