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The Solidarity Economy

By Jenna Allard and Julie Matthaei, Guramylay: Growing the Green Economy
and by Julie Matthaei's "Political Economy of Gender, Race and Class"
Class (Econ 243) at Wellesley College*


This website, which is a work in progress, aims to provide an introduction to the solidarity economy.  We include a summary of key aspects of the solidarity economy, written by the Social/Solidarity Economy Coordinating Group for the USSF, and provide some helpful links to assist in further research.    This website features research compiled by the students of the Political Economy of Gender, Race and Class (Econ 243) at Wellesley College, including a website introducing examples of solidarity economy businesses in the Boston area and awebsite exploring the solidarity economy in India. We also provide maps of solidarity economy organizations (worker cooperatives, consumer cooperatives, student cooperatives, cohousing, community supported agriculture, and fair trade businesses). We invite you to post on our blog! Also, check out the website of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network.

Short Introduction to the Solidarity Economy Framework

The solidarity economy is a new way of naming and conceptualizing the many types of transformative economic organizing all over the world based on values. The solidarity economy emphasizes our relationships to other people, and to our environment, and inserts solidaritous values into these relationships.   Solidaritous values are cooperative, egalitarian, democratic, locally based, and sustainable.   It strives for an economy based on human needs rather than an insatiable drive for profit.  The ultimate aim of the solidarity economy is the breakdown of oppressive economic hierarchies of all types, the development of human potential, and the preservation of our communities and environment 

There are four distinct aspects to the interconnected and organic whole that is the solidarity economy.  It is a collection of existing economic practices; a network of people and organizations engaged in these practices; a developing local and global movement that informs and advocates for these practices; and a theoretical framework for understanding and analyzing these practices. The solidarity economy can be a way of scaling up initiatives that work, and of transcending political boundaries. Many of its practices, networks, and movements these have arisen in response to the injustices and imbalances of neo-liberalism, and have grown through the organizing of the anti-globalization movement and the Social Forum movement.

Solidarity production practices and institutions can take many forms, from self-employed entrepreneurs and local small-scale businesses, to high road businesses and corporations, to worker-owned cooperatives and collectives, to community businesses. Solidarity transfer and exchange practices could range from farmers' markets, to community currrencies, to fair trade, to barter and free-cycling, to sharing and volunteer work. Solidarity use and consumption might include socially responsible consumption and simple living movements, and common ownership forms like housing cooperatives and co-housing. In the area of savings, recycling, and investment, these practices might include socially responsible investing and democratic ESOPs, Community insurance and Rotating Credit Associations, and Community Credit Unions. There are also solidarity economy policies that we can advocate for, and government processes, such as participatory budgeting. We want to cross-pollinate these practices and to grow them in scale. We also want to engage these practices in a process of dialogue through networking so that they can strive to embody solidarity values more fully, and so that they can support each other materially and create “solidarity chains of production.”

The solidarity economy is being defined from the grassroots, by the many diverse groups and individuals who are building transformative economic institutions. Thus, the term has a variety of meanings which are sometimes contradictory (click here for solidarity economy definitions from all over the world). In the United States, many solidarity economy practices, institutions, and networks already exist, but the concept is less well known than it is in Latin America, Europe, or Asia.

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*Our thanks to all the members of Julie Matthaei's Spring 2010 class (Lindsay, Amy, Bailey, Madeleine, Maria, Briana, Andrea, Joy, Jenny, Edem, Jenn, Kristen, Danielle, Aileen, Dominique, Jessica, Casi, Nirali, Rachel, Diana, Karina, Emma, Korrie, Maysa and Andrea)