Solidarity economy in Brazil: movement, discourse and practice. Analysis through a Polanyian understanding of the economy

No 524, ISS Working Papers - General Series from International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague

Andreia Lemaître, A.H.J. (Bert) Helmsing, June 2011

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Summary :

Solidarity economy initiatives constitute a worldwide phenomenon that is today at the very heart of numerous economic and social debates. They are active in a very diverse number of economic sectors, aiming for example to creating employment and income for poor and low-qualified workers, excluded from the conventional, State or private, labour markets. In the paper, we begin with presenting a Polanyian framework for the analysis of such economic activities, which enables us to develop a plural and integral conception of a productive organization, and study all these dimensions together. In a second part, we draw upon the thesis of Polanyi that economy is a political and institutionalized process and present an historic overview of the construction of the solidarity economy ”sector” in Brazil. We will put forward the hypothesis that the solidarity economy today, in Brazil as well as in Latin America in general, represents a social movement. In the third and last part of the paper, we ask ourselves if the solidarity economy movement led to a change in grassroots economic initiatives, such as the “people’s cooperatives”. We present the results of an exploratory research undertaken of 15 people’s cooperatives in the State of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

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