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Why is there no international movement promoting Solidarity Economy the way Transition does?

Although there is considerable effort and support towards solidarity economy, it is my fear that it falls behind the ease and scope that the transition movement has shown.

There is no core set of principles, forget about a recognized set of patterns that could easily and effectively explain solidarity economy to outsiders and motivate people to start changing economic relations in their own community.

Currently there is much efforts in mapping actors and relations in solidarity economies, but no clear image of what exactly to map - or a map of the conceptual diversities within solidarity economy.

I feel Transition and the SOLCOM (Solidarity Economics and Commons) group have much to learn from each other and that it is a good move to retrieve the SOLCOM activities here.

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Replies to This Discussion

Transition towns began with the clear intention of working at the municipal level in Britain. It was a campaign and I guess it is hitting the spot in Britain and America. But perhaps Europe / South America is different. SOLCOM isn't even an organisation is it? Its just a global catch-phrase. As such, who would presume to try to own it, to organise it?
hi franz, hi matthew

@franz: solidarity economy has a very clear pattern, if you like to call it that way: (1) self-management, (2) egalitarian cooperation, (3) demand-driven production (instead of a profit-driven one), (4) solidarity towards other projects/firms and society at large. ...there might be a whole universe of sub-patterns or whatever you may call it in christopher alexanders terms...

solidarity economy is very easily explained to outsiders, even a child can understand it:

no boss
no profit
mutual help

furthermore, solidarity economy is clearly enormously more powerful than the transition movement, when it comes to material practices, looking at what people are doing. this of course results partly from the simple fact, that the transition town movement incorporates solidarity economy patterns, i.e. must be seen as a solidarity economy movement (although it currently does not link itself to the solidarity economy *discourse*), whereas solidarity economy is present everywhere, even in everyday life. even on the discoursive level, the transition movement has lesser impact.

actually, the solidarity economy elements in the transition movement are - at least in my view - the only ones that make the transition movement "outstanding", as compared to the usual sustainability rhetoric. the transition movement is essentially the alternative social movements of the 70s taken into the 21st century. as such, that is absolutely great, but please remember mum and daddy. (actually, this was recognized recently in a scientific paper with rob hopkins as a co-author, bailey et al. 2010, geoforum).

@matthew: solidarity economy is a huge movement in latin america, but also in europe (and on other continents) considerable efforts are converging in this stream of experiences and thoughts. i don't think that the transition movement is more visible, this clearly depends on the issue you are interested in and on the "epistemic community" or discourse you are part of... if "visibility" may be any meaningful criterion to evaluate emancipatory movements.

so, taken together, the challenge in my view would be to link the transition idea more explicitely to the question of transforming the economy on the whole. obviously, the "local" is nothing self-sustained (except in food production, probably, yet not in all parts of the world...), so the transition idea cries out for a larger framework and movement to fit into. yet mutual links are scarce, on the level of discourse.
Just a note - check out this discourse:

Ted Trainer about Transition http://candobetter.org/node/1439 und Rob Hopkins answer . http://transitionculture.org/2009/09/08/responding-to-ted-trainers-...

We need to see both points and act responsibly. Transition has a clear logic in itself that must be respected. One of the elements of this logic is leading by example.
"Leading by example"


Best with no presumption of who's to follow or lead next.
...well .... the question of this thread was about the fact that Transition has managed to establish a replicable meme, or if you wish, a "brand". There is no attitude of "I know better" here (although there is a lot of knowledge involved), but a lot to learn. In this respect I miss the perception of the problem in Andreas comment concerning the solidaritiy economies "scene".

Yesterday I was watching a documentation about Detroits new urban agriculture, built up by small farmers, supporting NGOs, etc. - A billionaire wants to come in and create a scheme based on industrial patterns, truly capitalistic - killing the farmers who now are on the brink of success and producing already 15% of Detroits food supply. There seems to be no compelling model to manage things in a different way and no movement to promote that.

So the words I hear that Solidarity Economy is so much more powerful, but it seems far from reality.
hi franz

i am sorry, that our brief discussion appears a bit "stupid" at the point, when i am tempted to say that you misunderstood my argument :)

my argument was, that solidarity economy is

1. a "brand" and obviously replicable "model" in latin america (as is "transition town" in the english-speaking world and most remarkably in britain, which is, indeed, a very small part of the world...)

2. a mode of production which is much larger than "transition towns", which only are something "interesting" precisely because they have solidarity economy as an integral part (wether they name it or not).

we must not forget, that "transition towns" do not function, because they are a "brand" (see bailey et al. 2010, geoforum, incl. hopkins as a co-author, who quite intelligently and critically reflect the movement and the real sources of its partial strength)

and i am quite sceptical about the "replicability" of anything.

quite to the contrary, i guess, that everything depends on very local conditions.

that is the same with solidarity economy as with transition towns... if we ever get a vital transition town movement in austria (which i hope we will), it will be quite different to the english one... that's, by the way, also one of the reasons, why i am very sceptical about any attempt to "certify" transition "trainers" and the like... that will not work, either because it ends up in mere labelling without content, or because it will stiffle further development.

all in all - as is true with any movement - the "transition" idea works, because it articulates what people are already doing or wanted to do in a way that brings issues to a point.

the key lies in our daily practices, i.e. solidarity economy - regardless of the name you attach to it...

@detroit: me and irina vellay wrote an extensive article on detroit and the situation there, only available in german: http://www.streifzuege.org/2006/detroit-summer-2

those struggles you are mentioning are well-known to the people active in detroit since decades... nothing new under the sun. the movement in detroit is very strong, their strength of course does not rely on "following a model"... believe me, those guys do not need "transition towns" to fight their struggles and to build their future...

so my main message is: yes, the transition town movement is great, that's one of the reasons why we are all in here.

but please do not exaggerate. we know all very well how social movements and innovations work, so let's keep sober on this.

"i am quite sceptical about the 'replicability' of anything.  quite to the contrary, i guess, that everything depends on very local conditions."

I hear you and agree with you, finding myself echoing fit the farming to the farm again and again.  What does want to be applied more and more is commitment to human resources, for which over several hundred years too little modeling was available and to which too little celebration was dedicated.  At least in terms of what was reported.

I'm not sure how far solidarity, as movement or fact, has progressed.  I wish there was a link to the mentioned paper, as I sense I want to integrate its conclusions with my work-in-progress.


(This seems to be the paper or a reference to it.)

No, this is it, a PDF for sale.


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