3rd EMES-Polanyi. Seminar thematic axes

  1. Context
  2. Seminar thematic axes
  3. About the organizers and supporters
  4. Seminar committees

Communications may in particular address the following five thematic axes:

Axis 1 – Universalism revisited: Relational welfare and the reciprocal-institutional welfare state

Welfare state theorists departing from Titmuss (1974) usually distinguish between three overall models of welfare states that evolved gradually in the wake of the Second World War. These models are the residual, the achievement-performance, and the institutional-redistributive model of welfare. Scandinavian countries were among the most advanced examples of the institutional-redistributive model in the sense of seeking to implement universalism as a founding principle in the welfare system. The institutional-redistributive model of welfare was well functioning as a political project after the Second World War, but it has proved inadequate to challenge the power of neo-liberalism and to produce a vision for how to expand the space of social justice and participation. However, the principle locus for the generation of an institutional-reciprocal welfare state, civil society, is so far the weakest societal sphere in terms of institutional power (Somers, 2008). However, with its success in stimulating equality and creating high levels of trust and social capital the Scandinavian welfare states would make a unique starting point for becoming an engine in the generation of an institutional-reciprocal welfare state as a horizon for a reinforced link between an empowered third sector and an institutional welfare state (Hulgård, 2016).

Initiatives of South have a long experience of combination of welfare policy with socially produced welfare leading to some positive results. Obviously, the restitution of welfare functions to civil society raises serious problems in relation to the autonomy of traditional systems of solidarity, since it implies a degree of formal organization which they do not possess. The institutionalization of the welfare society, through the conversion or integration of some of its forms of intervention into non-profit organizations, has brought about, in most cases, a loss of flexibility and autonomy. Thus, there is a concern with the high probability that these institutions become simply extensions of the state bureaucracy which finances them. In Polanyian terms the consideration of substantive forms of economy associated to civil society initiatives and the combination of redistribution with reciprocity at the local level stimulates a very fruitful reflection.

Communications are invited to understand better the link between social policy analysis targeting the role of civil society and the third sector and the Polanyian theory of plural and substantive economy. We particularly welcome contributions targeting welfare from the perspectives of new articulations between reciprocity and redistribution, and those bringing in experiences from the South.

Axis 2 – Analyses of the commons

Against the folding of the discussions focused around the market and the state, research initiated by Ostrom and her colleagues called for recognition of collective actions that allow for governing the commons. These ranged from management systems for natural resources to the management of knowledge. A whole school of thought currently claims the commons in opposition to a second wave of “enclosures” according to the Polanyian term, such as in the struggle against the monopolization of biodiversity or free software. Some even see a political project based on an institution of the commons. Numerous recent publications (Audier, 2015; Coriat, 2015; Dardot, Laval, 2014; Hardt, Negri, 2013) suggest that this debate is currently at a critical crossroads.

Moreover, the social and solidarity economy must be considered as largely convergent with the commons. This convergence points up the emergence of alternative conceptions of collective action and social transformation. This hypothesis is based on the fact that such approaches have developed in parallel according to three theoretical frameworks: the third sector and the common pool resources exemplify the diversity of organizations in a neo-classical perspective where there is an institutional choice; the social economy and the common property regime put greater emphasis on a key criterion: collective property rights. The involvement of stakeholders calls for new forms of collective action which are not solely interest oriented, but also democratically based; the solidarity economy and the new commons enrich the theme by deepening the conceptualization of the economy (beyond the market), and the conceptualization of politics (beyond the state).

Communications are encouraged on the dialogue between social and solidarity economy and the commons, particularly on the different modalities of institutional diversity and in particular on the relationship between public goods and the role of public administrations.

Axis 3 – Reconfigurations of public action targeting solidarity economy, social enterprise and civil society

As Habermas says, the quality of democratic life is suspended in the constitution of autonomous public spaces, linked with collective actions implemented by free and equal citizens referring to a common good. The concept of associationalism “enables the possibility of relationships that are spontaneously generated and free from domination in a non-contractualist way” (Habermas, 1989, p. 44). Therefore, Habermas joins Offe in emphasizing the connection between the association and the “eminent position of associations in civil society around which autonomous public spaces may crystallize, which justifies the attention given to voluntary associations and associative life as a crucial way to define public commitments” (Habermas, 1992, p. 186). Nevertheless, in his civic-republican model, epistemological obstacles remain in terms of taking into account associations. To overcome them, the first inspiration comes from the second School of Frankfurt whose internal debates on the work of Habermas deliver stimulating controversies.

Thus, Fraser offers ways to turn to complementary and relevant contributions in terms of “a critique of truly existing democracy” (Fraser, 2005, p. 107-144). She opens up a possible dialogue between public policy and subaltern initiatives. Moreover, the feminist contribution has underlined the hidden link between production and reproduction which is very important to think about reconfiguration of public action including solidarity economy. For Dewey, problems of contemporary democracy can only be solved by additional democracy through the fight against the eclipse of the public and political apathy. “Self-determination of the citizen community is not considered through the exercise of popular sovereignty, through the legitimate production of norms, including the law. Rather, it is housed in public collective experience, supposedly able to orient and to guide itself through the formation of values” (Bidet, Quéré, Truc, 2011, p. 62). What matters is the exercise of collective intelligence which alone restores a public consistency because “there cannot be a public without a full publicity with regard to all the consequences that concern it” (op. cit. p. 264).

Communications are sought exploring issues related to new institutional frameworks (laws, public policies…) and their articulation with practices stemming from civil society.

Axis 4 – Solidarity economy, people-centred social innovation and social enterprise

From the research on solidarity economy we know that a much more differentiated understanding of economic integration is required than what is usually understood by the term ‘market economy’ (Laville, 2010; Fraser, 2014). To solidarity economy, a plural society requires full recognition of three economic principles. The first principle is the market, and economic integration through the market organized by an enterprise whether based upon the interests of shareholders in a conventional business or stakeholders organized in a social enterprise. The second principle is redistribution that is the power to move resources as well as negative consequences of market and growth between social groups. The welfare state as implemented in the decades after the Second World War is a typical example of a redistributive force in favour of potentially marginalized citizens. The third principle is reciprocity that is manifest in relational goods and services co-constructed with citizens, e.g. People-Centred Social Innovation (PCSI) or popular and solidarity economy in South America, especially the forms and consequences of mixes between reciprocity and householding. Such experiences put emphasis on the way in which economic and political empowerment are intertwined. This means that people and organizations engaged in collaborative arenas can produce PCSI, which bring socially desirable outcomes by adopting processes that put faith in diverse forms of knowledge.

Thus, “process” and “outcome” are equally important in enabling social innovation (Hulgård & Shajahan, 2013). This process-outcome integration links equally to an emphasis throughout the social innovation literature on participatory governance and to the necessity of an intensified South-North dialogue on knowledge (Santos, 2008). Thus, an integrated approach emphasises the importance of participatory processes both in the generation of social enterprise and in broader examples of social innovation. Following Santos, the economic and managerial dominance represents a reduction of the understandings of the world to the logic of Western epistemology. The call for cognitive justice and the recognition of epistemic diversity is an important source of inspiration for the elaboration of people-centred approaches to social innovation and social enterprise. Thus, we invite to a South-North dialogue on social innovation between diverse forms of knowledge, cultures, and cosmologies.

Communications are encouraged around the explanation and discussion of such notions as people-centred social innovation, participatory approaches to social enterprise, democratically owned enterprises and buen vivir. We particularly welcome contributions offering a joint reflection on production and reproduction such as those aimed at opening up the canon of knowledge, and those developed recently at the nexus of feminism and the solidarity economy.

Axis 5 – Action research, social innovation and solidarity economy

The first International Handbook on Social Innovation was published in 2013 (Moulaert et al., 2013) defining social innovation as processes that generate the provision of resources and services in response to social needs; the development of trust and empowerment within marginalized populations; and the transformation of those power relations that produce social exclusion through the transformation of governance mechanisms. According to this understanding, social innovation concerns not just particular actions, but also the mobilization and capacity building processes which lead to improvements in social relations, structures of governance, and greater collective empowerment.

Action research can be defined as research that contributes to empowerment and social innovation. The DNA of action research tradition is to contribute actively to social justice and democratization of society by generating knowledge about strategies, methods and actions to combat exclusion and disempowerment in various forms (Brydon-Miller, 2008). Action research focuses on changing society through collective mobilization, connecting it to empowerment, which is about processes of awareness and capacity building which increase the participation and decision making power of citizens, and which may potentially lead to transformative action which change opportunity structures in an inclusive and equalizing direction by allowing social groups to improve their ability to create, manage and control material, social, cultural and symbolic resources (Andersen & Siim, 2004). The objective dimension of empowerment refers to the development of the societal and institutional opportunity structures for creating positive changes, e.g. legal and institutional platforms for development of solidarity economy alternatives (Satgar et al, 2014). The subjective dimension refers to the development and transformation of motivation, learning and capacities of citizens and associations to take action for change.

The international research on social innovation and empowerment indicates that there is a danger of falling into the trap of localism, where successful social innovations end up as one-offs or simply die out at the very local level (Andersen & Bilfeldt, 2017). It is therefore important to analyse how social experiments like solidarity economy initiatives that often occur at the micro level may form the basis for up-scaling development of stronger platforms or initiatives at the meso and macro level, with the potential for larger societal impact.

Communications are encouraged around the role and potential of action research engaged with facilitation of social mobilization and platforms for Social Innovation and Solidarity Economy for example in urban and rural contexts. In particular we want to encourage dialogue over differences and similarities between the North and South societal contexts, including the different welfare state regimes.

What are you interested in?