Rethinking the Social and Solidarity Society in Light of Community Practice
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals… The love of money as a possession…will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semicriminal, semipathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease... I look forward, therefore, in days not so very remote, to the greatest change which has ever occurred in the material environment of life for human beings… the nature of one’s duty to one’s neighbour is changed. For it will remain reasonable to be economically purposive for others after it has ceased to be reasonable for oneself.J. M. Keynes 
2. Results and Discussion
2.1. The Principles of Social and Solidarity Economics
- Autonomy encompasses the capacity of self-governance or self-management within the communities, although it cannot be restricted to this realm, since it must extend to forging alliances among communities and negotiating with authorities in the various levels of government, many of whom perceive the local autonomy movements to be a threat. This facet of community consolidation involves an explicit recognition that in most cases the community itself is too small a body for effective operation, since the need for skills and goods is frequently greater and more diversified than the resources that it can muster from within. Self-governance also implies developing the knowledge and skills required for developing the capacity to evaluate proposals for further development, for incorporating new technologies when needed and defending inherited traditions and productive systems as part of the process of determining the best ways to improve well-being and protect the region’s ecosystems.
- The second principle, social solidarity, is a logical derivation of the first one. This involves a rethinking of the dominant patterns of entrepreneurial organization of community life, to encourage and facilitate broad participation in all aspects, including productive and social activities. Social solidarity requires a new conception of decision making, since the dominant approach in the nation state is based on electoral processes of representative democracy that are widely discredited, mainly because of their capture by wealthy or powerful groups that frequently betray broader community interests. In place of this structure of indirect governance, the principle of solidarity would call for more direct forms of democratic participation that involve a different concept of political responsibility of the local people in decision-making and participation in the various administrative posts required by self-governance; not coincidently, it also includes the possibility of revoking the mandates of leaders in the case that they do not fulfill their obligations. In this context, solidarity cannot be limited to interactions among people, since the alternative model also takes into account the needs of the ecosystems on which the society depends for its very survival. As we will see below, solidarity is not a simple declaration of good intentions; rather, it involves assuming the risks created by supporting people and movements challenging the institutional nexus generated in the globalized market economy, a risk associated with creating societies that inherently offer an alternative response to ever-intensifying crises.
- Self-sufficiency must be an essential part of the program, not a simple declaration of good intentions, but rather a profound reorganization of the structures of production and consumption to satisfy its own needs with a rising standard of living and attention to the cultural and nutritional needs of society. Local provisioning, however, is not limited to foodstuffs, but rather extends to all aspects of community life, including construction, infrastructure, clothing, and collective health and social services. This requires a concerted effort to prepare people with new skills and to create new capacities for producing and distributing goods.
- Productive diversification is another essential factor for creating the social economy. If the participating communities are to depend exclusively on the goods they could produce themselves, they would be condemned to a form of subsistence that would offer their members little prospects for a rising standard of living or a better quality of life. Limiting people’s consumption or a community’s activities to those that depend on the resources and goods at hand would inevitably threaten the viability of the project, since the pressures to abandon the strict limitations that this imposes would induce people to leave, as we have seen in many intentional communities throughout the world . Productive diversification also requires developing local markets for barter and exchange as well as for exploring other means of exchange, such as fair trade and solidarity markets regionally and internationally
- Of course, this set of principles would not be complete without including explicit consideration of sustainable regional resource management, since the organizational and productive activities of a SSS must also contribute to environmental balance. In this conception, the word “regional” is crucial and requires that any strategy for environmental management involve collaboration among communities, since it is rare that the territory of one community encompasses a whole natural environmental unit, like a water shed (river basin), where upstream and downstream groups should collaborate to avoid contamination and resource depletion. Frequently, this requires a deliberate effort to rehabilitate deteriorated ecosystems that suffered from a devastating history of abuse as a result of colonial and/or capitalist exploitation. Today, more than ever, these efforts to create spaces for the SSS pose difficult issues due to intensifying pressures from international capital to take control of valuable mineral resources or agricultural lands, pushed by market pressures and international competition.
2.2. The Components of the Solidarity Society
3. The Paths to a Social and Solidarity Society
4. Conclusions: What Can We Learn? How to Move Ahead
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Barkin, D.; Lemus, B. Rethinking the Social and Solidarity Society in Light of Community Practice. Sustainability 2014, 6, 6432-6445. https://doi.org/10.3390/su6096432
Barkin D, Lemus B. Rethinking the Social and Solidarity Society in Light of Community Practice. Sustainability. 2014; 6(9):6432-6445. https://doi.org/10.3390/su6096432Chicago/Turabian Style
Barkin, David, and Blanca Lemus. 2014. "Rethinking the Social and Solidarity Society in Light of Community Practice" Sustainability 6, no. 9: 6432-6445. https://doi.org/10.3390/su6096432