Resource website of social and solidarity economy

Global dimensions of multi-level territorial governance

Themes : Redefining the economy on a territorial basis

How can we introduce regulations that respect ethics in a world where interactions are intertwined? “Between private and public capitalism, there is no place for people’s real participation. Since 1945, there have only been two players: the state and the market. When it works, the public gives the private a go, and when it doesn’t work, it’s the other way round. If these players stumble, the third player, the third sector, can grab the ball, but without having learned how to do it! People need to be taught how to govern themselves. A government’s other role is ensure the security of public goods (people, currency and the redistribution of wealth.) The third sector’s mission is not to claim this position, but to demand that the public actor plays its role: proper redistribution and the teaching needed for civil society to become the main player.”

The hypothesis of re-implantation is no longer unrealistic. “Initiatives that have stood the test of time illustrate the collective processes that are linking sectors and territory, inventing co-responsibility, strengthening resilience and territories’ capacity to meet a collective challenge. They help to lessen macro-economic impacts and reclaim a degree of autonomy within the process of allocating shared resources, to the benefit of resident communities. Not without some difficulties, since they disrupt or collide with a mindset and regulations that are partially obsolete. Performance indicators based on gross domestic product continue to prevail, thanks to the power of entrenched positions and force of habit, despite the fact that they do not correspond to a world with limited resources. They sideline plural forms of economy wherein profit is not the be all and end all. However, overall, the solidarity economy’s social practices, which remain marginal today, are already partially halting the erosion of the labour society and could very soon result in the creation of a real collective identity, under that name or any other, such as third sector or the social economy. Less out of choice than necessity.”

Legality is not always synonymous with legitimacy. The Pandora’s box of destructiveness has been opened. The devastating effects of modern-day manifestations of violence are spreading. They are vast and genocidal throughout the world, or they exclude people, one by one, from the working world, managing welfare recipients in a process that is disassociated from citizenship. As part of this process of disaffiliation, violence results from institutional weakness within the rules system itself. We need to recognize the power that is wielded by large corporate groups and a huge variety of lobbies without any real control. We are suffering from a lawlessness that paves the way for an abuse of dominant positions, with no democratic opposition capable of enforcing respect of the legitimacy of the universal rule of “common humanity”. A power struggle was needed to impose limits on the exploitation of human labour in the 19th century. The exercise of a collective opposition force will be needed on a global scale to curb exclusion and rebuild forms of social protection that work for everyone.

Finding our way round the current transition process requires taking reality as our springboard, by means of reliable documentation and traceable results: this is the missing link. Innovative social practices are becoming audible and visible, due to their concomitance and number. The time has come to illustrate them, to document and analyze them in order to identify shared principles of perception, to systemize them in order to “create common sense”. But we also need to combine the teachings provided by practical expertise with those generated by a theoretical approach in order to establish collective action with the power to transform. This is what is missing from the toolbox used by political analysis. And until a theory of this kind is fully developed and accepted, major political decisions will continue to be based on the assumption that individuals do not know how to organize themselves and need to be organized by external authorities, whether the state, the market or, frequently, both. Analysts do not question the way that internal and external variables can reinforce or weaken efforts made by communities of individuals to find a creative and constructive way to deal with difficult problems, such as the tragedy of common goods. Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, wrote: “It is my responsibility as a scientist to ascertain what problems individuals are trying to solve and what factors help or hinder them in these efforts. When the problems that I observe involve lack of predictability, information, and trust, as well as high levels of complexity and transactional difficulties, then my efforts to explain must take these problems overtly into account rather than assuming them away.“3

This is a vast field , which this dossier could feed into and thus provide the analysis process with better tools.

A new definition of territoriality within globality

“The term has different meanings, depending on different cultures and languages. For us, territory is a system for taking action with a geographical basis where social, cultural and economic relationships take shape:

  • between inhabitants who share the same legacy and experiences and the destinies inherent to the same inherited and evolving space (native and adoptive inhabitants, migrants, visitors, etc.);

  • between organizations with multiple functions (businesses, authorities, states, mutual aid networks, sectors, etc.);

  • between these people and these organizations with a given biogeographical environment;

  • between all these components and much larger (macro) or much smaller (micro) entities. These territorial relationships, whose “local” roots may be different depending on the nature of the interpersonal relationships under consideration, are necessarily open to the outside. Because today’s world contains increased levels of interdependency. The process of solving the most concrete problems, such as housing, food, planning, infrastructure, services, employment, reasonable use of natural resources, distribution of available resources, etc., must take into account:

  • the drawbacks and advantages of globalized production and distribution of goods and services;

  • the current incapacity of international governance to fairly and efficiently manage natural and cultural resources (global common goods, shared values) and all types of flows in a manner suited to the diversity of situations (ecosystems, overpopulated cities, weakened territories);

  • new links and forms of organization (institutional, economic and social as well as cross-cutting, financial, fiscal and technical) that territorial governance must create.

(Results of an international electronic forum that followed on from Workshop 7 at the Forum Lux’09 in April 2009 (4th RIPESS meeting for the globalization of solidarity in Europe), by European P’ACTS with Yvon Poirier and Françoise Wautiez, featured on the ALOE website (see

2 case studies | 5 Analyses/working papers/articles

2 case studies

5 Analyses/working papers/articles