Image: Sam Fentres-Creative Commons

A sensitive, humanistic economy is possible: the solidarity economy

19 | 05 | 2020

During times that test every structure, life forms based in solidarity flourish.

People have survived because we learn over and over again the art of being together

In situations that test our structures, we flow on to new forms of organization. In facing junctures like the current pandemic, forcing us keep our distance, we know how to cultivate schemes of life anchored in solidarity. In the face of chaos, we attend to an inner call suggesting that we remain together.

During moments like these, the need for a more sensitive, humanistic economy resonates. Fortunately, various alternatives for balanced and sustainable exchange have for some time, been cultivated.

A solidarity economy is not a new idea, but today, it’s essential that it be addressed…

It’s a global movement that can’t be defined in one way as it combines quite multiple voices and adapts to every region. Its mission is to activate economic practices focused on generating well-being for people and for the environment, that is, for both the natural and social environments. Those participating in a solidarity economy are aware of the impact their actions have on other people and on nature.

An economy that recognizes acts of community and kindness

Cooperating, sharing, and giving away are all acts we rarely consider when speaking of economics. But there are models of a solidarity economy where such methods for improving the lives of others become fundamental to co-existence. Cooperation is the beginning of any exchange, and such a value replaces competition.

Informal transactions like barter, unpaid work, and non-profit work are always considered; especially if they derive from solidarity. As Emily Kawano, a specialist in the subject, explains, volunteer work, caring for children or older adults, helping a neighbor, caring for a home, are but some efforts recognized as part of a solidarity economy.

Inspired by “Good Living” and other alternative models

A different solidarity economy is practiced in any given place. The idea is that anyone can adapt it to their own context. The concept informs us of multiple alternative models which teach us to maintain a connection with the environment and with others.

“Good living” is one of the notions that inspires a solidarity economy in Latin America. Originally from indigenous groups of the Andes, it’s defined as:

[…]covering needs, achieving a dignified quality of life and death; loving and being loved; the healthy flourishing of all individuals in peace and harmony with nature; and achieving an indefinite reproduction perpetuation of human cultures.

“Good living”  is practiced in many indigenous communities where solidarity is a philosophical principle. Interconnection between subjects and nature carries a divine dimension, and consensus is the only way to articulate a life in common.

Building a solidarity economy starts with personal acts and everyday decisions

It’s possible to build a solidarity economy in your daily life. We need to be guided by instinct to support those who are nearby and to improve our immediate environment. Consuming local is a first step. But it’s also about consuming sustainably and always seeking a fair exchange, such that a price considers everyone involved in the generation of a product.

A second step is to meet your neighbor. Support your neighbor in whatever you can; reinitiate barter; donate what you no longer need and give an amount you think is right for you, so that someone who doesn’t have enough may be better off. Investing in your community is the basic principle. On the other hand, when you travel or move, try to be in solidarity with those who receive you, with a preference for travel alternatives like solidarity and ecological tourism.

“You’re from the place where you pick up the trash,” Juan Villoro wrote after the September 19, 2017 Mexico City earthquake, and with good reason. In the face of a contingency and, in general, to face the world we inhabit, we’d better be together; reconnect with a sense of belonging, and above all, be supportive.

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