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Solidarity Economy in the context of the Nordic welfare state

Master’s thesis, Faculty of Management , Tampere University

Gabriel Esber Elias, August 2019

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Summary :

In debates over alternative economic practices to our current economic system, increased attention has been given to Solidarity Economy, a concept that encompasses a heterogeneous universe of self-managed enterprises led by the principles of democracy, equality, cooperation and a growing sense of environmental preservation. However, research has thus far largely focused on contexts of high social vulnerability and little attention has been given to the context of the Nordic welfare. This research identifies how the Nordic welfare enables and constrains the development of Solidarity Economy.

The research consists in qualitative data collected from semi-structured interviews with Solidarity Economy actors in Finland. The data is compiled into relevant themes with the support of thematic analysis. The themes are analyzed through the lens of structuration theory which was adopted as the theoretical framework due to its capability to unify structure and human agency. The research provides an extensive literature review of Solidarity Economy and a more clarified picture of the concept in Finland.

The analysis reveals that the high level of quality of life, as well as the public service provision, social security and certain infrastructure offered by the Nordic welfare can enhance the capability of individuals to promote Solidarity Economy. On the other hand, the same scenario may constrain the development of Solidarity Economy as it may produce the perception that systematic changes in the economy is not necessary.

Furthermore, the analysis suggests that the close relation between Finnish society and the state and the high amount of trust on the authorities may be a barrier to the development of Solidarity Economy. The lack of financial resources of Solidarity Economy enterprises is another identified aspect that can undermine the development of Solidarity Economy. On the other hand, alike movements, cooperatives and increase awareness of social and environmental issues may enable the scale up of Solidarity Economy through the construction of a more robust network.