The Cooperative September 2017

Social Cohesion and The Solidarity Economy

By Richard A. Rice
Grassroots Coalition - Birmingham, AL

The term “Solidarity Economy” is becoming more widely recognized in the Southeast and in particular in predominantly black cities such as Jackson, MS and Birmingham, AL. However, what is the meaning of “Solidarity Economy” and what value does it add to our current markets and economies? If a solidarity economy is desirable, then what are the initial steps to begin its’ implementation and moreover, what barriers are preventing a more broad adherence to its’ implementation? I hope to begin to answer a few of the foregoing musings and inquiries in this brief article.

In a very basic sense the word “solidarity” may be defined as “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group” and “economy” may be defined as “the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.” Just from reviewing formal definitions of the components words of the term yields considerable insight into the core principles of a “solidarity economy.” Solidarity economies and solidarity politics are first and foremost about placing people in a position as priority number one. Moreover, a solidarity economy consists of institutions and systems that are subservient to the humanitarian interests and the public interests. Public policy and market rules are derived to further the ends of equity, fairness and justice. A fundamental component of solidarity is social cohesion and cooperation.

A solidarity economy offers many benefits as compared to a conventional economy. This pronouncement holds especially true for marginalized groups. Cities such as Jackson and Birmingham with overwhelmingly black and brown citizens still find these so-called minority groups facing marginalization in terms of the provision of favorable public policy and the distribution of public resources. Our history teaches us, that collective action and cooperation are required to overcome such forms of oppression. A solidarity economy provides the very framework by which we may maximize our production and creation of value. Moreover, it provides basic tenets for equitable and efficient methods of distributing economic surpluses.

Restorative justice must be an unyielding and unapologetic aim if we sincerely intend to install a social economy. Social cohesion and cooperation amid community members and market players certainly requires low transaction costs - trust, efficient exchange of information, and a sense of fairness. In order to realize the foregoing, communities and cities such as Jackson, MS and Birmingham, AL have to be willing to face their respective ongoing histories of State ratified racial biases supported by way of physical violence, peonage, slavery, voter intimidation, disenfranchisement, lynching, gerrymandering, and general terrorism. After a full review of the following tactics and relics thereof, we must move to begin to approach a strategy of restorative justice. This is no easy task but we are left with no alternative given the current state of our national politics and state-wide politics.

To form a united whole, we must be honest about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we intend to go in the future. The time is now for us to further mobilize under the banner of creating a solidarity economy. The development of community land trusts, cooperatives, social entrepreneurship, popular civic/public interest education, community farming, and local civic engagement will serve to underpin and incubate our initial efforts of building anchor social institutions.