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The definition of "solidarity economy" is widely contested. For some, it refers to a set of strategies and a struggle aimed at the abolition of capitalism and the oppressive social relations that it supports and encourages; for others, it names strategies for "humanizing" the capitalist economy—seeking to supplement capitalist globalization with community-based "social safety nets".
The solidarity economy can be seen a) as part of the "third sector" in which economic activity is aimed at expressing practical solidarity with disadvantaged groups of people, which contrasts with the private sector, where economic activity is aimed at generating profits, and the public sector, where economic activity is directed at public policy objectives, or b) as a struggle seeking to build an economy and culture of solidarity beyond capitalism in the present.
The still evolving term "solidarity economy" is an English translation of a concept represented by the French "économie solidaire" and similar terms in several other languages. As such it is sometimes translated by other expressions such as "solidarity-based economy".
Social and solidarity economy
The solidarity economy is often considered part of the social economy, forming what might be termed the "social and solidarity economy" (from the French "économie sociale et solidaire"). The concepts are still under development and the difference between the two terms is gradually being clarified. An organisation seeing itself as part of the solidarity economy generally goes beyond achieving purely social aims: it aims to put right an injustice by expressing solidarity. For example, a local sports club has a social aim and so can be considered part of the social economy, but would not normally be considered part of the solidarity economy except in special circumstances (e.g. a township sports club in South Africa in the days of apartheid).
Examples of solidarity economy organisations
- Fair trade organisations form part of the solidarity economy as their aim is to express practical solidarity with farmers in the developing world by paying them fair prices for their produce.
- Self-help organisations also form part of the solidarity economy as members support each other in dealing with their problems as a practical form of solidarity.
- Co-operatives and especially Worker cooperatives form part of the solidarity economy if their aims include a commitment to solidarity in some form.
- Trade unions are often considered a key part of the solidarity economy as they are based on the principle of solidarity between workers.
- Open source development and other forms of commons-based peer production.
- Social center
- Give-away shops and other forms of Gift economy
- Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) as a way of replacing money.
- Solidarity lending
- Ethical purchasing
- Economy for the Common Good
- Miller, Ethan. Solidarity Economics. Strategies for Building New Economies from the Bottom-Up and the Inside-Out - February 2004
- Miller, Ethan. Other Economies are Possible!, ZNet
- Miller, Ethan. Elements of a Solidarity Economy, [GEO]
- Euclides André Mance. Solidarity economics, Turbulence
- Solidarity Economics
- German Conference on Solidarity Economy held in Berlin on 24-26 November 2006
- Haverford College Solidarity Economy Resources
- Grassroots Economic Organizing
- Euclides André Mance Archives
- The U.S. Solidarity Economy Network
- Portal de Economía solidaria (in Spanish)
- Solidarische Ökonomie (in German)
- Different articles available in English, French and Spanish (MIJARC)
- SOLECOPEDIA (online encyclopaedia on solidarity economy, in English, French, Spanish etc.)