A New European Socioeconomic Perspective
Review of Social Economy, VOL. LXI, NO. 3, September 2003
Over the past few decades a new associationism and cooperativism perspective that takes on a broader, civil-society and solidarity-based view of the economy has developed in France. This perspective resonates with the long tradition of ‘‘reform-economics’’ that France is known for and expresses an understanding of economic relationships as embedded in non-market and non-monetary social relationships. Such broadly understood conceptions of economic activity defy narrow definitions of profit orientation, production and distribution. Economic activity motives include social and political ones that link ‘civil entrepreneurs’ in solidarity networks to service recipients and other stakeholders. One of the functional foundations of this new interdependent notion of the economy is the growing ‘tertiarization’ of economic activities, that is the ‘‘intensification of social interactions within productive systems’’ (Perret and Roustang 1993: 59 – 60). While the market economy is dependent on the non-monetary economy, the tertiarisation of production activities accentuates the interdependence between the market economy and non-market economies.
This article seeks to analyze the links between the re-emergence of a civil and solidarity-based economy to the evolution of new forms of public commitment and the changing structures of productive activities in France. It further argues for a theoretical perspective that provides an analytical framework for a more comprehensive approach to the empirical complexity of social economic considerations consisting of three economic spheres: the for-profit economy, the public sector economy and the generally locally based non-monetary reciprocity based economy. Given its ability to link these three poles the civil and solidarity-based economy can revitalize social and political link and consolidate the social fabric while at the same time creating jobs. Yet despite this potential, its mission cannot be to the problems of unemployment and other failures of the market economy. It is instead to facilitate relationships between paid and volunteer work in a context that makes users, workers and volunteers the participants in collectively designed services and economic relationships.
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