Publish at July 01 2021 Updated July 08 2022

Disseminating the economy of solidarity proximity [Thesis].

Economic alternatives and proximity strategies of the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE)

In a world where, according to sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eva Chiapello, "people's greatness depends on their hierarchical position in a chain of personal dependencies within an ordered and hierarchical universe", it is good to know how to take a step up for yourself.

This is precisely possible with the thesis of Laura Gueorguieva-Bringuier, who has worked on our economic models and the transformative potential of the economic alternatives of the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS).

In fact, people and organizations attentive to biodiversity and the development of human potential are well aware that the economic system in which we inscribe most of our exchanges is not a sustainable system.

Taking a step back

In a personal as well as professional capacity, the question of the economic viability of our projects with collective, innovative, benevolent benefits towards living beings has never failed to be asked.

We do not always have the hindsight to understand the economic issues of the century to help us, and especially to articulate them with the questions raised by current forms of solidarities.

In her thesis in economics and finance, the researcher exposes in a language accessible to non-economists the concepts that drive our states, our companies, our institutions, and that regulate our lives and professional potentialities.

Pervasive logics of action

The economic world is mostly governed by market, industrial, and project-based logics:

  1. "The market city is that of the evaluation of greatness by monetary value [...]. This means that it is determined by the meeting of supply and demand in competitive markets for scarce goods and services. Monetary wealth and business acumen are seen as"great", poverty or being business shy, as "small". This is a register of individualistic justification, or the common good is seen only as the sum of each person's desires. It requires an emotional distancing of actors [...] in favor of opportunism and total freedom to transact without hindrance from the other registers of justification. "
  2. "The industrial city is that of "technical objects and [of]scientific methods" (Boltanski, Thévenot), of the rationalization and optimization of productive performance. Greatness is conceived there as the ability to leverage means to "usefully meet the needs" of organizations. This register applies an instrumental "relationship to nature" and to the people who must serve performance and technical progress."
  3. "The project-based city is hegemonic today in a context of accelerating market transformations, innovation and production methods, companies are increasingly working in small, agile units, adaptable and ready to seize the slightest development opportunity. "

SSE, what is it?

Wikipedia defines the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) as "the branch of the economy grouping together companies and organizations (cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, mutuals or foundations) that seek to reconcile economic activity and social equity".

The sector is often referred to as the third sector, after a first sector given as private and for-profit and a second sector given as public and para-public. The SSE is present in Europe, Quebec, French-speaking Africa and South America.

The first part of the thesis returns to the construction of liberal and social visions that accompany industrial revolutions and crises. It is an important resource to better understand our world and the levers we can operate.

The SSE in its historical perspective

At the source of the SSE we thus find the so-called "utopian" experiments of the nineteenth century, which aimed at developing an egalitarian and harmonious society.

Revolutionary socialism was then institutionalized in a state socialism: political demands were verticalized by their inscription in hierarchical institutions. It was no longer primarily a question of overthrowing capitalism, but of making up for certain failures of the system through social progress.

The utopian lineage re-emerged in the 1970s-1980s, as neoliberal logics were setting up their hegemony.

Logics of action and the test of reality

Alongside the aforementioned majority logics (the first three in the table), current SSE structures are inscribed in different registers of justification.

Each gives rise to different tests of reality:

Technical evaluation of productive performance
Market Arbitration of value through the meeting of supply and demand in a market
Per projectDemonstration of flexibility, ability to move from one project to another
Domestic Ritualized community ceremony, usually convivial in nature and commensal
InspirationalDemonstration of a detachment of the mind from the body and other registers of justification
Of opinionDegree of mediatization
CivicExpressions of the citizen will : demonstrations, debates, elections
LibertarianChallenging authority, especially if it is linked to property
EcologicalPreservation of the environment out of moral duty

The economy of proximity

The research considers the capacity of the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) to open up new modalities of exchange, in a relationship of proximity (geographical, institutional, organizational) and in a formal diversity of coordination (economy of conventions).

The territory of Grenoble-Alpes Métropole in France provided the terrain for a "descriptive analysis made from empirical observations carried out on typical networks of alternative movements". Maps and diagrams modeled the interactions within the studied networks.

Staying oneself

A risk was identified for innovative structures: being caught, along with its partners, beneficiaries, and funders who may fall under a neoliberal logic, in a process of "isomorphism", i.e., "homogenization in structure, culture, and product".

These structures can then lose their most innovative character, as can be the case in moments when it is a matter of approaching a developmental level. This is why some structures can remain on a more preserved positioning.

"Even if neoliberal capitalism largely safeguards[e] its hegemony, even trimming into social, solidarity and environmental initiatives via the sharing economy current, the alternatives constitute[ent] pockets of resilience and freedom in the face of the uncertainty of life and the crises that weigh on industrial civilization. The bias toward safeguarding small size, adhocratic functioning, and a flexible, sometimes inward-looking network proved to be an asset in escaping isomorphic pressures and allowing actors to modulate their proximate environment. "

Research contributions

  1. Show that the positioning and relationships between alternative SSE streams and the mainstream economic model are more fluid than imagined.

  2. Providing "original theoretical tooling through the hybridization of analytical frameworks from proximity economics and convention economics".

  3. Enlightening a "rich and varied empirical material".

In effect, "the current liberal capitalist paradigm[...] which seeks to impose standardized practices on all citizens"is confronted with a far richer and more promising field experience.

It illustrates Pierre Bourdieu's 1992 lecture on economic anthropology at the Collège de France:

There is "not one economy, but [...]economies, universes with different objective and subjective logics."

Illustration: andreas N from Pixabay

To read:

Laura Gueorguieva-Bringuier. SSE proximity strategies in the service of economic alternatives. Economics and Finance. University of Grenoble Alpes, 2019.

Thesis available at:


Denis Cristol, "Learning to count more than money ":

Julie Trevily, "The Social and Solidarity-Based Economy for Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs " :

The words of the thesis:

  • Isomorphism: "Institutional isomorphism analyzes the convergence of behaviors between organizations belonging to the same field. "

  • Adhocracy: A neologism built on the Latin term "ad hoc ", adhocracy is the opposite of bureaucracy. It is'a " organizational configuration that mobilizes, in a context of unstable and complex environments, multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary skills, to carry out specific missions."

See more articles by this author




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