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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Is the social and solidarity economy a workable alternative to traditional capitalism?

The social and solidarity economy (SSE) is an economic phenomenon in the full throes of expansion throughout the European Union, as well as other parts of the world. This is no doubt partly the result of the 2008 economic and financial crisis and the prolonged post-crisis period, which – despite the economic recovery in macro-economic terms – has, over the last ten years, led to ever-growing inequalities, precarious employment and cutbacks in basic public services in ‘welfare societies’.

But the current growth in SSE is also the result of the crystallisation of 175 years of organisational history, enabling very diverse social sectors, at a global level, to create alternatives to traditional capitalist organisations, with a view to improving the living standards of the majority.

The social and solidarity economy – through its most commonly known legal structures (cooperatives, mutual societies, etc) – is on the rise throughout the world. Although few quantitative studies are available, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) notes that there are currently at least 2.6 million cooperatives worldwide, bringing together around one billion people and providing at least 250 million jobs. These figures alone are strong indicators of the sector’s importance.

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