The solidarity-based economy includes the set of activities contributing to the democratisation of economy on the basis of civic commitments. This perspective of analysis is characterised by the fact that it envisages these activities not only from the point of view of their legal form (associations, co-operatives, mutual societies…) but also through the twofold dimension – both economic and political – which constitutes their specificity.
The economic dimension first insists on the prevalence of the reciprocal impulse in the emergence of these practices. The latter are not based on a contractual agreement motivated by profit; they rather aim at an inter-subjective experience. Their consolidation is then seeked through mixing resources, with redistributive public resources and market resources relaying reciprocal resources. The challenge consists in mixing resources in a way that preserves the rationale behind the project, without transforming it into a mere tool.
The political dimension is rooted in this reciprocity and the construction of public spaces allowing a debate among the stakeholders on the goals pursued and the means implemented hereto. The challenge, in this case, lies in maintaining the possibility for the existence of autonomous public spaces, distinct from institutionalised public spaces regulated by authorities.
The two dimensions are intertwined insofar as the mobilisation of the forms of reciprocity used in a voluntary way by free and equal citizens allows them to gain access to the public space by constructing the conditions for their economic independence. But the capacity to generate social changes depends on the link established between, on the one hand, exercising this positive freedom of association and co-operation and, on the other hand, a public action which is the only one able to promulgate the rights and to define the norms of an inequality-reducing redistribution. The effects of the solidarity-based economy are thus linked to the combination of two dimensions of democratic solidarity, namely egalitarian reciprocity and public redistribution.
The practices of the civil and solidarity-based economy thus counter the naturalisation of economy based on the sole dimension of individual material interest.
By Jean-Louis Laville
- Laville J.L., (ed.), L'économie solidaire: une perspective internationale. Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1994 (Réédition 2000).
- Laville J.L., Cattani A.D., Dictionnaire de l’autre économie, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 2005.
- Laville J.L., Magnen J.P., De França Filho G.C., Medeiros A., Action publique et économie solidaire, Toulouse, Erès, 2005.