Difference between revisions of "Solidarity Economics"

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See also: the [[Data Commons Project]]
See also: the [[Data Commons Project]]
==German ressources==
* [http://www.solidarische-oekonomie.at Kongress Solidarische Ökonomie], 20.-22. Februar 2009
* [http://www.solidarische-oekonomie.de/ Solidarische Ökonomie - Projekte für eine andere Welt]

Revision as of 05:41, 23 February 2009

= Solidarity economics starts from the World Social Forum that "another world is possible" and applies to it to economics. The idea is that it is possible to organize economies around principles different than that of global capitalism. [1]

Definition & Description

From an overview article in Dollars and Sense at http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2006/0706emiller.html

Ethan Miller:

"For some theorists of the movement, it begins with a redefinition of economic space itself. The dominant neoclassical story paints the economy as a singular space in which market actors (firms or individuals) seek to maximize their gain in a context of scarce resources. These actors play out their profit-seeking dramas on a stage wholly defined by the dynamics of the market and the state. Countering this narrow approach, solidarity economics embraces a plural and cultural view of the economy as a complex space of social relationship in which individuals, communities, and organizations generate livelihoods through many different means and with many different motivations and aspirations—not just the maximization of individual gain. The economic activity validated by neoclassical economists represents, in this view, only a tiny fraction of human efforts to meet needs and fulfill desires.

What really sustains us when the factories shut down, when the floodwaters rise, or when the paycheck is not enough? In the face of failures of market and state, we often survive by self-organized relationships of care, cooperation, and community. Despite the ways in which capitalist culture generates and mobilizes a drive toward competition and selfishness, basic practices of human solidarity remain the foundation upon which society and community are built. Capitalism's dominance may, in fact, derive in no small part from its ability to co-opt and colonize these relationships of cooperation and mutual aid.

In expanding what counts as part of "the economy," solidarity economics resonates with other streams of contemporary radical economic thought. Marxist economists such as Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, for example, have suggested that multiple "modes of production" co-exist alongside the capitalist wage-labor mode. Feminist economists have demonstrated how neoclassical conceptions have hidden and devalued basic forms of subsistence and caregiving work that are often done by women. Feminist economic geographer J.K. Gibson-Graham, in her books The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (1998) and A Postcapitalist Politics (2006), synthesizes these and other streams of thought in what she calls the "diverse economies perspective." Addressing concerns that are central to the solidarity economy approach, she asks, "If we viewed the economic landscape as imperfectly colonized, homogenized, systematized, might we not find openings for projects of noncapitalist invention? Might we not find ways to construct different communities and societies, building upon what already exists?"

Indeed, the first task of solidarity economics is to identify existing economic practices—often invisible or marginal to the dominant lens—that foster cooperation, dignity, equity, self-determination, and democracy. As Carola Reintjes of the Spanish fair trade association Iniciativas de economía alternativa y solidaria (IDEAS) points out, "Solidarity economy is not a sector of the economy, but a transversal approach that includes initiatives in all sectors." This project cuts across traditional lines of formal/informal, market/non-market, and social/economic in search of solidarity-based practices of production, exchange and consumption—ranging from legally-structured worker cooperatives, which engage the capitalist market with cooperative values, to informal affinity-based neighborhood gift networks. (See "A Map of the Solidarity Economy," pp. 20-21.) At a 2000 conference in Dublin on the "Third Sector" (the "voluntary" sector, as opposed to the for-profit sector and the state), Brazilian activist Ana Mercedes Sarria Icaza put it this way: "To speak of a solidarity economy is not to speak of a homogeneous universe with similar characteristics. Indeed, the universe of the solidarity economy reflects a multiplicity of spaces and forms, as much in what we would call the 'formal aspects' (size, structure, governance) as in qualitative aspects (levels of solidarity, democracy, dynamism, and self-management)."

At its core, solidarity economics rejects one-size-fits-all solutions and singular economic blueprints, embracing instead a view that economic and social development should occur from the bottom up, diversely and creatively crafted by those who are most affected. As Marcos Arruda of the Brazilian Solidarity Economy Network stated at the World Social Forum in 2004, "a solidarity economy does not arise from thinkers or ideas; it is the outcome of the concrete historical struggle of the human being to live and to develop him/herself as an individual and a collective." Similarly, contrasting the solidarity economy approach to historical visions of the "cooperative commonwealth," Henri de Roche noted that "the old cooperativism was a utopia in search of its practice and the new cooperativism is a practice in search of its utopia." Unlike many alternative economic projects that have come before, solidarity economics does not seek to build a singular model of how the economy should be structured, but rather pursues a dynamic process of economic organizing in which organizations, communities, and social movements work to identify, strengthen, connect, and create democratic and liberatory means of meeting their needs." (http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2006/0706emiller.html)


Ethan Miller:

"The idea and practice of "solidarity economics" emerged in Latin America in the mid-1980s and blossomed in the mid to late 90s, as a convergence of at least three social trends.

First, the economic exclusion experienced by growing segments of society, generated by deepening debt and the ensuing structural adjustment programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund, forced many communities to develop and strengthen creative, autonomous and locally-rooted ways of meeting basic needs. These included initiatives such as worker and producer cooperatives, neighborhood and community associations, savings and credit associations, collective kitchens, and unemployed or landless worker mutual-aid organizations.

Second, growing dissatisfaction with the culture of the dominant market economy led groups of more economically privileged people to seek new ways of generating livelihoods and providing services. From largely a middle-class "counter-culture"—similar to that in the Unites States since the 1960's—emerged projects such as consumer cooperatives, cooperative childcare and health care initiatives, housing cooperatives, intentional communities, and ecovillages.

There were often significant class and cultural differences between these two groups. Nevertheless, the initiatives they generated all shared a common set of operative values: cooperation, autonomy from centralized authorities, and participatory self-management by their members.

A third trend worked to link the two grassroots upsurges of economic solidarity to each other and to the larger socioeconomic con-text: emerging local and regional movements were beginning to forge global connections in opposition to the forces of neoliberal and neocolonial globalization. Seeking a democratic alternative to both capitalist globalization and state socialism, these movements identified community-based economic projects as key elements of alternative social organization.

At the First Latin Encuentro of Solidarity Culture and Socioeconomy, held in 1998 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, participants from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Colombia, and Spain created the Red latinoamericana de la economía solidaria (Latin American Solidarity Economy Network). In a statement, the Network declared, "We have observed that our experiences have much in common: a thirst for justice, a logic of participation, creativity, and processes of self-management and autonomy." By linking these shared experiences together in mutual support, they proclaimed, it would be possible to work toward "a socioeconomy of solidarity as a way of life that encompasses the totality of the human being."

Since 1998, this solidarity economy approach has developed into a global movement. The first World Social Forum in 2001 marked the creation of the Global Network of the Solidarity Socioeconomy, fostered in large part by an international working group of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural, and United World. By the time of the 2004 World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, the Global Network had grown to include 47 national and regional solidarity economy networks from nearly every continent, representing tens of thousands of democratic grassroots economic initiatives worldwide. At the most recent World Social Forum in Venezuela, solidarity economy topics comprised an estimated one-third of the entire event's program." (http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2006/0706emiller.html)


Euclides André Mance:

"Millions of people across the world practise solidarity economy. They work and consume in order to produce for their own and other people’s welfare, rather than for profit. In solidarity economy what matters is creating satisfactory economic conditions for all people. This means assuring individual and collective freedoms, generating work and income, abolishing all forms of exploitation, domination and exclusion, and protecting ecosystems as well as promoting sustainable development.

This network initially came out of successful practices of work and income generation, fair trade, ethical consumption, solidarity finance, and the diffusion of sustainable productive technologies. These efforts were, however, isolated. It was necessary for them to develop into collaborative networks that integrated these diverse actions with strategies that increased the potential of economic flows and the interconnections between them. This meant that solidarity finance could enable the emergence and maintenance of worker-managed productive enterprises that employed low-impact technologies and promoted the highest social benefit. The products of these enterprises started being commercialised in circuits of solidarity trade through shops, fairs, international fair trade systems and even internet sales. This in turn enabled consumers to replace the products and services they bought from capitalist enterprises with products and services produced within the solidarity economy, feeding back into a system of promotion of welfare for workers and consumers, environmental protection and sustainable development. Technologies such as free software and organic agriculture began being employed, developed and shared across these networks. Excess wealth produced in the circuit was reinvested, part of it in the form of solidarity microfinance.

However fast solidarity economy is developing, millions of people who fight for ‘another world’ do not practise or participate in it. First, because they are unaware of it; second, because of the relatively difficult access to the products and services produced within this other economy. Both difficulties can be quickly surmounted. The main obstacle is cultural: to overcome a consumerist culture that prizes quantity, excess, possession and waste over the welfare of people and communities, we need to replace unsustainable forms of production, consumption and ways-of-life with the affirmation of new ways of producing, consuming and living in solidarity.

As they progress in the economic and cultural terrains of this revolution, solidarity networks will also advance in the political sphere – transforming the State, creating and reinforcing mechanisms of popular participation. There is no linearity in this revolution; each reality changes in its own way. But by virtue of their being-in-network, collaborative processes can communicate and learn from each historical experience, successful or not. The information technologies that facilitate their interconnection tend to become increasingly central to the State and the public sphere. This opens up the possibility of new processes and mechanisms of governance and shared management that can result from the combined effects of democratic revolutions in the cultural sphere with collaborative solidarity economic processes as its material base." (http://www.turbulence.org.uk/solidarityeconom.html)

More Information

  1. Intro essay: Introduction to the Solidarity Economy
  2. http://www.socioeco.org/en: Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World, a workgroup on the Socioeconomy of Solidarity. Currently the most comprehensive source for material in English on solidarity economy theory and practice.
  3. http://www.communityeconomies.org: Community Economies Project, an ongoing collaboration between academic and community researchers and activists in Australia, North America, and Southeast Asia, developing theories and practices around the concept of "diverse economies."
  4. http://www.trueque-marysierras.org.ar/biblioteca2.htm: A website of one of Argentina's many barter clubs; a large, excellent library of Solidarity Economy articles in Spanish.
  5. http://www.ecosol.org.br: A cooperative website maintained by a number of supporters of solidarity economy; perhaps the best library of Brazilian Solidarity Economy material available online.

See also: the Data Commons Project

German ressources