Social Inventors for Territories where Life can be Lived Martine Theveniaut - Detailed Summary 2015

Thesis for the degree of Doctor of Sociology, supervised by Jean-Louis Laville,Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers Paris, presented in 2007 and updated between 2014 and 2015.

Martine Theveniaut, 2015

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Summary :

Just like the full text, the summary is structured into three separate parts. It highlights the strong points and lessons learned from the experience, moving from the local to the global. Each section can be studied separately from the others. References to the pages of the manuscript appear in blue between brackets.

Part 1: It relates how, starting in the 1980s, “social inventors” were empowered by taking action, creating jobs and socially useful activities, and how their results become rooted in home territories. This account, applied the Aude department, is not a monograph. Rather, it is an account of a journey, methodically and rigorously analyzed. Although the journey is unusual, it is one of many, all belonging to the same emerging social transformation movement. This movement, characterized by a plural and parallel approach, has become part and parcel of collective life in France, Europe and the rest of the world.

Three chapters each develop a different facet of this emerging movement.

  • Formulate a critical assessment and deconstruct in order to take back control over one’s life.

  • Building “spaces for organizing where concrete individuals can rebuild themselves with others”

  • How organized collectives and elected representatives have re-energized the democratic process from the bottom up

Part 2: Emergence of the solidarity economy in France

The hypothesis is that the solidarity economy makes senses because it crystallizes a possible path for change. Localized composite systems of action take form concomitantly until they constitute an autonomous representation that lies outside the strictly public sphere. How has their mobilization become incorporated in the debate on ideas and the broader social movement? In the context of the changes we are currently experiencing, what potential and which hopes are embodied by this emergence, wherein the territorial approach plays a decisive and unprecedented role?

Two chapters develop this question

  • From emergence to entry into public politics

  • Territorial organization of the solidarity economy

Part 3: It looks at the beginnings of an alterlocalization process, between an approach centred on creativity and resistance to the inhuman, seeking radical change. “Small is beautiful” is simply no longer possible. This brutal fact arises at the crossroads of the research’s three sections. We can no longer imagine living well at the local level without incorporating an analysis of the global environment that encompasses our collective living.

Two chapters develop this question

  • Basic ethical principles and processes for making the transition to another possible world. Not everything should be thrown into the institutional basket. The lack of law benefits power. Never before has it been concentrated in so few hands. Without democratically established principles of law and legitimate institutions to ensure they are respected, there is nothing to prevent the law of the jungle holding sway. This is why it is impossible to neglect the foundations of a power’s legitimacy: the power to do what, exercised in which way, and for what purpose?

  • Globality and alterlocalization - “Interculturality: the peoples’ destiny” – but not just any how! The potential power of the energy accumulated in the acts of individuals regaining control over their lives is “incalculable,” it “takes place within semidarkness, unapparent until the time it finally surfaces into the light of day as an assortment of shocking surprises.” Vaclav Havel, one of eastern Europe’s leading dissidents, posits that such resources are not “calculable.” They swept away Stalinism.“Should we fear emerging as an opposition force?” Building a self-aware civil society.

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