Production, exchange and redistribution practices based on solidarity can be found in almost all areas of economic activity. Long ignored, these Social and Solidarity Economic (SSE) practices are receiving growing attention by scholars and by public authorities. This increasing interest however, remains gender blind, even though these practices are highly gendered and women play a major role in them. The SSE practices in the area of social reproduction are still under-recognised. This research project aims at addressing these gaps in SSE analysis and policies from a feminist perspective. It will contribute to the empirical and theoretical debates on social reproduction.
The project team hypothesises that to be truly transformative SSE needs to also address the reorganisation of social reproduction, integrating the political goals of gender equality and more equitable power relations. The research aims at understanding practices, social relations and power relations in relation to social reproduction within SSE. It furthermore seeks explore the contribution of SSE to the renewal of public action and policies, in the field of production and social reproduction.
SSE organisations located in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and India have been selected where in-depth studies at the micro-level will be developed, using feminist anthropological approaches. At the meso- and macro-level, the project will explore the interactions between SSE and political debate, action and public policies, using feminist economics, sociology and political science approaches. These multi-scalar and pluri-disciplinary studies will produce comparative analysis and contribute to substantial conclusions, both at theoretical and policy levels.
Long ignored, Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) practices have been getting growing attention in the last decades from academics and policymakers alike (Laville and Cattani 2006). Public authorities increasingly recognize SSE, for instance, several Latin American countries have passed new laws or have created public institutions dedicated to the SSE. In India, though the term “solidarity economy” is not used, there is a long-standing tradition of grass-root organisations working either on everyday practical issues, in multiple sectors of the economy, or for social protection for informal workers, combining “struggle” and “development” (Kabeer et al. 2013, Chatterjee 2014), that are increasingly engaging in lobbying activities with public authorities. Along with a reflection on direct income initiatives, government schemes and the new politics of distribution (Ferguson 2015), this growing interest has manifested itself in publications, conferences, laws, and the creation of public institutions for SSE. UNRISD created a UN Inter-Agency Task Force on SSE in 2013. In face of the challenges of inequality and climate change, the UN has put forward SSE as a possible alternative model of production, financing and consumption (UNRISD 2014). This growing interest in social and solidarity economy by both academics and politicians, however, remains gender-blind, even though these practices are highly gendered and women play a major role in them (Verschuur, Guérin, Hillenkamp 2015). On the other hand, although feminist economics has clearly articulated the concepts of social reproduction and the care economy (Benería 1979, Esquivel 2014), these theorizations tend to pay little attention to forms of collective and solidarity-based care provision (Fournier et al. 2013). This research addresses these gaps in SSE analysis and policies from a feminist perspective.
This research examined six case studies of social and solidarity economy (SSE) initiatives with a feminist perspective in Latin America and India. Social and solidarity economy practices privilege the quest for solidarity over individual (or group) profit-only and rentseeking behaviour, and constitute spaces of deliberation to democratize the economy. A feminist analysis of these gendered practices showed that SSE cannot contribute to sustainable development and become an alternative to current economic (mal)functioning if it does not address the reorganisation of social reproduction, integrating the political goals of gender equality and equitable gendered power relations. The research brought new insights on women’s work and social reproduction, the concept of solidarity, the constitution of political subjects and the articulation with the State. Our feminist analysis of these SSE practices revealed emerging initiatives to reconstitute forms of organisation combining autonomy, communality and territoriality, in defence of life. It examined the contribution of SSE to the renewal of public action and policies in the field of production and social reproduction. The research confirmed that a feminist analysis of SSE initiatives can help understand these as germinal processes that open opportunities for the construction of new social relations, challenging power, gender and social exclusion, despite the many nuances and contradictions that these practices entail.
The feminist analysis of social and solidarity economy (SSE) practices in the six cases studied in the project has found that, in the face of destructive patriarchal capitalism, SSE practices may contribute to the valorization of women’s work, strengthening of social ties, and the protection of life as such. Under certain conditions, SSE practices may also contribute to the formation of political subjects capable of challenging patriarchal capitalist structures towards greater recognition and more rights. While marked with challenges, SSE practices may thus form part of collective struggles for equitable and more sustainable societies.
Solidarities do not form in a vacuum. The feminist analysis of social and solidarity economy (SSE) practices in the six cases studied in this project identified a number of interlinked factors and processes that contributed to the formation of solidarities among women, and to the formation of solidarity-based women’s associations.
The feminist analysis of social and solidarity economy (SSE) practices in the six cases studied in the project identified a number of limitations that may undermine the existence, scope, effectiveness and sustainability of public policies for SSE. These related to (i) the ability of SSE initiatives to construct public actions (and exert pressure) for change; (ii) a disabling political environment and lack of political commitment; (iii) the nature of institutional support in place; (iv) the processes underlying SSE policy making and legislation; and (v) institutional, political and financial capacity of state institutions to act, and policy incoherence. The research findings point in particular to the problematic way in which states fulfil their responsibilities in the field of social reproduction as a structural limitation for the development of SSE initiatives. This constitutes a major impediment to the development of feminist and transformative public policies for SSE. Overcoming it will require action from governments, SSE organizations and civil society movements.
Graduate Institute Geneva
The Graduate Institute
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
Marisa Lis Fournier
Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers
Institute of Social Studies Trust
The Graduate Institute
Universidad Mayor de San Andrés