A topical issue
This book edited by R. Chaves and D. Demoustier gives an international overview of the interaction between the social economy and public policy in two languages: English and French. It results from a working group under the auspices of the International Scientific Commission “Social and Cooperative Economy” at the International Center of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC). The book addresses a hot topic. For one thing, it provides the reader with rich insights about a form of economy that promises some resilience in a time of financial crisis. Second, it takes stock of the different regulatory social economy (SE) environments found internationally. Over the last few years, many countries have indeed adopted national laws on the SE. The crucial question now is: where do these new laws fit into public policy overall, or how should they?
In some way, this emerging international institutionalization process suggests that the social economy is compatible with the public and the private economy. This process assumes that society needs intermediary groups between the individual and the state and the individual and the market. The authors shows that broader recognition of an organized social economy in public policies overall is preconditioned on its visibility and image in the public eye. The social economy suffers indeed from fragmentation into different sectors, into multiple platforms and federations, into various legal forms. Moreover, the social economy intersects with other concepts such as nonprofit organizations, third sector (services), solidary economy, social enterprise, etc.. As a result, the CIRIEC seeks a common denominator for the field.
The book’s key virtue is to show that despite the diversity of national approaches, we can really speak of institutional recognition of the SE and the concurrent emergence of specific new public policies. This is very important and can be considered as an asset against the backdrop of a pervasive financial crisis marked by deepening inequalities, as demonstrated by Thomas Piketty’s recent study. However the book also explores how these policies are multiple, incomplete, and sometimes ambiguous. This is the case when SE-oriented public policies combine contradictory conflictual cross-sector provisions or further splinter the field by increasing competition rather than cooperation among SE actors.
Book Review in Nonprofit Forum Policy Journal