The political orientations that our work often takes can trap us in a one-world mindset—or lead us beyond it. The reformist (or neoliberal) orientation remains rooted in capitalist growth models—for example, enterprise zones to attract investment and create jobs. A social justice approach recognizes systemic shortcomings and promotes alternative ways to do economic development, such as hiring preferences and living wages. A transformative politics seeks to go beyond not just capitalism, but the idea of economic development itself. Instead of alternative development, it seeks alternatives to development (Escobar 2018, 2020). That is, it aims to advance other worlds that are not beholden to capitalist ideas and categories, where we can co-create different realities rooted in interdependence and solidarity.
Among advocates of solidarity economy, all three tendencies exist. The phrase, “solidarity economy,” can describe a coherent economic system that would replace capitalism, or it can refer to cooperative economic practices that have always already existed. For some, the phrase indicates economic reform and for others radical transformation. In some locations, solidarity economy is institutionalized and recognized by the state but in others involves civil society and informal practices. Common to all efforts is a politics that seeks economic justice and advances relations, institutions, and practices that put people and planet over profit. These include “things like cooperatives…community land trusts, alternative currencies, time banks, and so on—that privilege cooperative rather than competitive, behaviors, that are democratic rather than hierarchical, that seek to bring together rather than individualize, and that reveal rather than conceal sociality and interdependence” (Shear 2019).