Substantivism is a position, first proposed by Karl Polanyi in his work The Great Transformation, which argues that the term 'economics' has two meanings. The formal meaning, used by today's neoclassical economists, refers to economics as the logic of rational action and decision-making, as rational choice between the alternative uses of limited (scarce) means, as 'economising,' 'maximizing,' or 'optimizing.'

The second, substantive meaning presupposes neither rational decision-making nor conditions of scarcity. It refers to how humans make a living interacting within their social and natural environments. A society's livelihood strategy is seen as an adaptation to its environment and material conditions, a process which may or may not involve utility maximisation. The substantive meaning of 'economics' is seen in the broader sense of 'provisioning.' Economics is the way society meets material needs.

Other articles related to "substantivism":

Economic Anthropology - Substantivism
... economies the concepts of formalism and substantivism coincide since people organise their livelihoods based on the principle of rational choice ... Another key concept in substantivism is that of 'embeddedness' ...
Economic Anthropology - Critics of The Approaches
... Substantivism has not been without its critics, either ... that the strict distinction between primitive and modern economies in substantivism is problematic ... on transactional modes are situational rather than systemic (he therefore implies that substantivism focuses on social structures at the expensive of analyzing individual agency) ...