Public Policy for a Social Economy
Journal of peer Production, issue #7
Over the last 20 years, there has arisen a global interest in the role that the social economy plays in the economic and social life of nations. This interest has spawned a growing literature on the nature and role of the social economy, its size and composition, its operating rules and organizing principles, its relevance for the economic and social well being of societies, and its relation to the state on the one hand and the private sector on the other.
Increasingly, the social economy is being viewed as the repository of those social, cultural, and political values that are most relevant for protecting and advancing the collective good. These values include the idea of reciprocity as the driving force of social economy organizations, the pursuit of social aims through the practice of mutuality, and the promotion of social solidarity through the advancement of social and economic equity.
For these reasons, and as a result of the upheavals brought on by free market capitalism, the social economy is also emerging as a complement to the state for the social welfare of citizens – a role made increasingly necessary by the abrogation of this duty on the part of governments. The economic crisis and the domination of neoliberal ideology have thus combined to thrust the social economy into a historic spotlight and to play a central role in the reconfiguration of the body politic of nations the world over.
However, the social economy is far more than the application of co-operative or self-help strategies operating at the margins of the economy to help the poor as is sometimes believed. Nor is the social economy merely a collection of economic self-defense measures against the failures and depredations of the “free market” economy. Rather, the social economy represents a wholly different conception of economics in which market forces and economic practice serve social or collective interests, rather than just those of capital or the individual. The social economy is the testing ground for a kind of economics that can actually deliver on the promises of social justice, equity, and collective wellbeing that are manifestly beyond the capacity of the capitalist paradigm.
Commonstransition.org and peerproduction.net