Solidary economy as an imaginary of practice in the anti-globalization movement

8 December 2008, 17:00 - 19:00

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane

Dr Bruno Frère (SPS and Université of Liège)

This paper investigates the internal dynamics and tensions within the solidary economy movement. While the movement's identity is defined by a common grammar of action, conflicting views on how to realise the joint vision of a "solidary economy" subvert the formation of a coherent and more powerful voice. I would like to open this debate with presenting my research on "third sector associations" in France, which have emerged under the label of “solidary economy”: LETS (Local Exchange and Trading  Systems), Fair trade and "services de proximité". What is notable is that the collective representations of these groups take their starting point in a common political imaginary of practice (Castoriadis, 1975). This imaginary of practice contrasts with the imaginary of utopia and contestation that characterised the "old" social movements, like the Marxist-Leninist labour movements, which originated in the classical left ideology  (Touraine, 2002). Drawing on pragmatic and moral sociology (Boltanski and Thevenot, 1992, Boltanski, 2004), I will show how the groups within this imaginary of practice share a common “grammar”, which is articulated by four distinctive topics of argumentation.  In a second move, I explore how these networks (such as the “Mouvement pour l’Economie Solidaire”) position themselves within the anti-globalisation movement by using arguments drawn from this common grammar. In the various World Social Forums (Porto Alegre, Bombay) or European Social Forums (Florence, Paris, Londres), the solidary economy associations present themselves as the practical actors of concrete, material and realistic claims while they criticise the political grammar of the alter globalisation movements, such as ATTAC. As a consequence, the mainstream actors of the solidary economy and the anti-globalisation organisations have difficulties in articulating a common grammar (“montée en généralité”) and in speaking the same language. Rather than trying to reconcile the four topics of argumentation and ideological representation of the solidary economy world, the different groups are resilient to compromise their position. Could some compromises allow them to reach a better political visibility in France?

Followed by drinks at "The Anchor"

Theme for 2008/09 "The Moral Economy?"

 Part of the Business and Society Research Group  Series

The  Group aims to provide an interdisciplinary forum for researchers investigating the cultures of capitalism and the social and ethical dimensions of organizations, business, and economics.