Solidarity Economy

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For the concept rather than the book, go to: Solidarity Economics).

1. A short definition:

"The Solidarity Economy is an alternative development framework that is grounded in practice and the in the principles of: solidarity, mutualism, and cooperation; equity in all dimensions (race/ethnicity/ nationality, class, gender, LGBTQ); social well-being over profit and the unfettered rule of the market; sustainability; social and economic democracy; and pluralism, allowing for different forms in different contexts, open to continual change and driven from the bottom-up." (


"The solidarity economy includes a wide array of economic practices and initiatives but they all share common values that stand in stark contrast to the values of the dominant economy. Instead of enforcing a culture of cut-throat competition, they build cultures and communities of cooperation. Rather than isolating us from one another, they foster relationships of mutual support and solidarity. In place of centralized structures of control, they move us towards shared responsibility and democratic decision-making. Instead of imposing a single global monoculture, they strengthen the diversity of local cultures and environments. Instead of prioritizing profit over all else, they encourage a commitment to shared humanity best expressed in social, economic, and environmental justice." (


Solidarity-based economy: Principles

Source: National Secretariat of Solidarity Economy, Brazil

  1. Self-management
  2. Democratisation of the economic relations
  3. Co-operation instead of forced competition
  4. Valuing diversity. Human beings are more important than profits
  5. Valuing local knowledge, constant learning and training
  6. Social justice and emancipation
  7. Protection of the environment


The Solidarity Economy in Brazil

By Andreas Exner, Christian Lauk:

"How can the paradigm of a good life for all replace the growth paradigm? What we clearly need is a great social transformation. And, in fact, we can already find social innovations that might function as the basic units of this transformation. They start from the bottom and flourish in protected spaces where shared perspectives are developed, experiments and learning take place, and links to wider power networks are forged.

Two outstanding examples are the solidarity economy in Brazil and the global information commons.

The solidarity economy appeared in Brazil in the late 1990s as the country was hit by an economic crisis caused by the liberalization of capital markets.4,5 In the ensuing recession, many enterprises went bankrupt and poverty increased. Unemployment rose, while the prospects for reentering the formal economic sector shrank for a broad portion of society.

In this deplorable situation, a small group of socially concerned academics acted as change agents. They were engaged in a national campaign against hunger and had teaching positions at the National School for Public Health. This allowed them to support poor people’s cooperatives by creating solidarity economy incubators where cooperatives could learn to organize their workflow based on relations of equality and reciprocal support. Cooperatives were also supported in resolving the technical challenges they encountered. A considerable part of the learning process in the solidarity economy took place within incubators, in which experiences with cooperative success were assessed, shared, and further developed.

In addition, social networking between trade unions, universities, and cooperative associations strengthened the power links between this niche and the wider society and state. Finally, the solidarity economy even managed to establish a state secretariat that was instituted within the Ministry of Labor. The state secretariat further supported the cooperatives by starting a national mapping project to assess the state of solidarity economics in Brazil and allow for the specific allocation of resources and legal reforms.

In the case of the solidarity economy, we see a radical social innovation in the making. Wage labor is replaced by self-management, which is the solidarity economy’s core innovation—and not a small one. Indeed, cooperative self-management is a precondition for ecologically responsible production. There are two reasons for this: First, it is only through self-management that production can become oriented toward concrete needs (which are limited and can be satisfied), instead of shareholder value and profit (which are unlimited, can never be fully satisfied, and thus entail growing consumption of energy and materials). Second, equal cooperation within an enterprise is a starting point for cooperation with other stakeholders and society at large, further reducing the competitive compulsion to grow. For instance, a recent study found that members of cooperative enterprises are more socially and democratically oriented than the average worker. According to the authors of this study, this trend is not the result of selectively employing people who are already socially oriented, but is rather the effect of egalitarian labor relations on individual workers.

Thus, it is no surprise that in Brazil solidarity economy units often cooperate as networks by, for example, collectively marketing what has been produced independently. Solidarity economy chains that directly link different producers that depend on each other have been developed in some cases. The most prominent example is the textile cooperative Justa Trama. There, monetary income that is earned at the end of the chain is shared by all members who contributed to the production process according to their needs and living conditions. Because a solidarity economy is not primarily geared toward profits and often replaces monetary relations with direct cooperation, it does not promote growth but acts as an increasingly important safety net for people excluded from the capitalist sector." (

The Solidarity Economy in Food and Agriculture


Similarly, Landcare, Access to Land initiatives (like Terre de Liens), tech sovereignty farmer-to-farmer movements like Farm Hack, Láterier Paysan, and iterations of farm hack utilising digital Peer to Peer (P2P) and (neo) Commons movements and show that there is lots of potential in multi stakeholder sharing responsibility and resources of initiatives – including EIPs utilising the more progressive aspects of the CAP show how we can collectively manage regions and what’s produced in them.

"In food, Community Supported Agriculture is the most comprehensive SSE model, though the Italian GAS, French AMAP, and also two models from Japan – Teikei and the lesser known Seikatsu are arguably operating on a larger scale and are more impactful than the CSA movement at present. CSA involves farmers and eaters sharing the risks, responsibilities and rewards of production: eaters promise cash up front for a long period of time and get both a guaranteed supply and a say in what’s produced, and how it is produced. Typically, its food produced in an agroecological manner that’s sought out by CSA adherents. Externalities – pollutions and costs borne by society and the environment – are more internalised, via closed nutrient loops, mixed farming and other techniques from the organic handbook. In other word,s its like a self-taxing system for the good of the living world.

Similarly, Landcare, Access to Land initiatives (like Terre de Liens), tech sovereignty farmer-to-farmer movements like Farm Hack, Láterier Paysan, and iterations of farm hack utilising digital Peer to Peer (P2P) and (neo) Commons movements and show that there is lots of potential in multi stakeholder sharing responsibility and resources of initiatives – including EIPs utilising the more progressive aspects of the CAP show how we can collectively manage regions and what’s produced in them." (


In 2013, by Pat Conaty:

"Mike Lewis has been advancing the Solidarity Economy ideas in anglophone Canada. This was of thinking has been strong in francophone Canada since the 1990s. I am sorry to say that in the UK, the Solidarity Economy is a major gap. People here understand the social economy, but not the Social Solidarity Economy. So we have a ways to go to catch up. Solidarity is foreign to free market thinking. So linking this to the commons is key. Also we need to make stronger links to the Social Solidarity Economy within the Co-op sector in anglophone countries. It is of course strong in the Co-op sectors in many countries.

I think a key vehicle for achieving this wider breakthrough and making the Social Solidarity Economy concrete can be the Social Co-operative model because it is by definition multi-stakeholder. In Quebec they call Social Co=ops by the name Solidarity Co-ops and to be legal as such a company you need at least two stakeholder groups among these choices: workers, service users/consumers and supporting members. In Italy there are five stakeholder choices for a Social Co-op. What is fascinating in Quebec, is that in recent years more than 9 out of 10 new Co-op registered in any industry or area of the economy are Solidarity Co-ops." (email communication August 2013)

The Book

Book: Solidarity Economy: Building Alternatives for People and Planet. by Carl Davidson.


"The emergence of the global grassroots economic structural reform movement known as the Solidarity Economy. This book contain the core papers, discussion and debates on the topic at the U.S. Social Forum of 10,000 people in Atlanta in the summer of 2007."

More Information

  • de Faria, MS & Cunha, GC. Self-management and solidarity economy: The challenges for worker-recovered companies in Brasil. Journal für Entwicklungspolitik 3, 22-42 (2009).