Solidarity Socioeconomy:

01 June 2002
Marcos Arruda

Solidarity Socioeconomy:
Humanizing Globalization
Marcos Arruda
TNI Website, June 2002

Strategic Vision

Heloisa saves about half the pesos she earns as a university professor in Buenos Aires, because she buys goods and services in "créditos" at one of Argentina's 1,060 solidarity exchange clubs. Crédito is the social currency being used as a medium of exchange between citizens of Buenos Aires districts organized into solidarity exchange clubs. These involve nearly three million Argentinians and are just one dimension of what is called a system of solidarity socioeconomy. Other dimensions include self-managed cooperatives and associations engaged in producing and trading goods and services, purchasing equipment collectively, collective borrowing from credit cooperatives or banks, collective purchasing for consumption, solidarity micro-credit schemes, solidarity collaboration networks where cooperatives either sell and buy from each other, or sell to workers' organizations, people's movements, churches, participatory local governments and other socio-political agents responding to the challenge of creating a solidarity socioeconomy and globalizing cooperation and solidarity.

A Solidarity Socioeconomy does not arise from thinkers or ideas; it is the outcome of the concrete historic struggle of human beings to live and develop as individuals and groups. It arises also from the crises of viability in the dominant world system centered on capital, on the market and on competition as an avenue to civilization.

A Solidarity Socioeconomy is a fundamental part of another societal and civilizational project. Its horizon is not anti-globalization, but globalization based on cooperation and solidarity. A Solidarity Socioeconomy is not just a microeconomic project. Nor is it just an economic project. If people count, and since we are multidimensional beings, if economy (from the Greek Oikos-Nomos, manager of the house) is the art of managing and caring for the various houses we inhabit, then the project is at the same time socioeconomic, political, cultural, environmental, energetic and, for many of us, spiritual.

A Solidarity Socioeconomy is also conceived as a "work economy" (José Luis Coraggio) or "an economy of work in solidarity" (Luis Razeto), because it takes the work, knowledge and creativity of men and women workers as a central value. History, anthropology and economics prove that women are solidarity beings par excellence. They are concerned above all with the inhabitants of the house and oversee the well-being of each and every dweller. Theirs is an ecocentric approach, as opposed to the masculine egocentric bias.

Other basic values of a Solidarity Socioeconomy include - lesser and higher - basic human needs, which demand a consciously managed mode of technological progress; the various human exchanges supported by values such as cooperation, reciprocity, two-way communication, respect for diversity, solidarity and conviviality; and a harmonious mode of exchange with Nature, our mother and our broader biosystem.

Action Strategies

Overcoming the brutally competitive, corrupt, oligopolistic economy centered on capital is a task of everyday life, and everyone can contribute to building alternative solidarity socioeconomic practices. This demands moving beyond action in isolation and working to develop productive chains where each link has a collaborative connection with the others, forming a coherent subsystem concerned with maximizing cooperative advantages and developing both the efficiency of each agent and systemic efficiency. Action strategies to fulfill the vision of a local-to-global solidarity socioeconomy include:

  • The rooting of associative and cooperative enterprises in the persons involved, in the territory, the neighborhood, the community, the biosystem.
  • The mounting empowerment of men and women workers towards becoming the conscious, active and collaborative subjects of their own enterprises, and of all the dimensions of their lives, from the local to the global. This involves developing an economic sector of social ownership and self-management, overcoming specialization and professionalization, and educating workers towards becoming intellectuals, scientists, politicians and sometimes even government officials.
  • The growing interlinking among self-managed enterprises, in the form of transparent, participatory and consciously collaborative networks fed by energy arising from the practice of values such as respect for difference, complementarity among differences from local to global, and always building new ties of unanimity in diversity.

This is precisely what is meant by radicalizing democracy. It implies overcoming the traditional forms of democracy, to the extent that it institutes society as a whole, working to create and recreate life, as the subject of its own social and human development. In such a context, the State is gradually reshaped as an orchestrator of diverse social subjects empowered for the collective management of their own communities and territories.

Aware of the fact that a Solidarity Socioeconomy cannot exist without the simultaneous growth of a Solidarity Culture, we must develop a whole new educational system, as well as decentralized educational sub-systems, adapted to the children, young people and adults of the different sectors of each society. This includes certain indispensable factors:

The educational process must be based, on the one hand, on the praxis of individual and group autonomy and self-management and, on the other, on solidarity. It must envisage the development of the full potential of each and every pupil. This means that the personal transformation envisaged is integral and will not emerge from ideas or professorial speeches alone, but above all from the practice of new values and modes of relationship.

Transformation implies risks, obstacles and complex contradictions that are not only external but also internal, not only objective but also subjective. Since we are complex, contradictory beings, we must be prepared for this challenge by developing a philosophy of conflict that makes us capable of using dialogue, rather than coercion, as a means to develop unanimities around common projects.

We need a double strategy to guide our action: one both critical and creative, with proposals of its own. To do so demands working on several fronts simultaneously, including:

  • pressuring the private sector, awakening its sense of social and environmental responsibility and working for the adoption of codes of conduct;
  • pressuring the State - at the local, national and global levels - for substantial changes towards participatory democracy, social investment, regulations, changes in legislation to introduce, among other things, recognition for and promotion of a Solidarity Socioeconomy and other forms of direct democracy such as sectorial people's councils (like the Participatory Budget Council). This front has a, upper horizon: the occupation of State power by organized society at various levels, and the creation of a Social World Bank, an International Solidarity Fund and a World Equitable Trade Organization;
  • spreading the project, values and praxis of a Solidarity Socioeconomy throughout society, underlining the importance of reinventing money and its uses, and developing solidarity financial networks on various scales; and
  • enlarging South-South, South-North, West-East and rural-urban trade and exchange, both direct and electronic.

Transformation is a long process anchored in the individual, social and historic human beings that we are, and also in the reality of globalized capitalism. These are largely contradictory references, but paradoxically they conceal within themselves the germs and the potential for their own radical transformation and supersession. We need to muster inexhaustible patience and persistence in order to win.