Placing the Social Economy

Placing the Social Economy

Placing the Social Economy

Placing the Social Economy

Synopsis

Placing the Social Economy analyses policy and offers opinion on the future potential of the so-called Third Way, an initiative that is supposed to fulfill the role that a welfare state would normally undertake.

Excerpt

There is a great deal of talk these days about the restorative powers of the social economy. The non-profit sector, usually in the hands of the Third Sector, is no longer seen as a residual and poor cousin to the state or the market, a sphere of charity and social or moral repair. Instead, it is imagined as a mainstay of future social organisation in both the developed and developing world, set to co-exist with the welfare state, meet social needs in hard-pressed communities, constitute a new economic circuit of jobs and enterprises in a market composed of socially useful goods and services, empower the socially excluded by combining training and skills formation with capacity and confidence-building, and create a space for humane, co-operative, sustainable, and 'alternative' forms of social and economic organisation. While the optimists have come to see much of this as a good thing, a 'taming' of capitalist excess and exploitation, and the return of the social and civic into the mainstream, those who are more circumspect warn that the social economy remains a poor substitute for provision through the market or welfare state, the return of an under-nourished and under-nourishing social sphere. Either way, there is a distinct sense that the social economy will feature centrally in twenty-first century capitalism.

The social economy, as defined by this book, consists of non-profit activities designed to combat social exclusion through socially useful goods sold in the market and which are not provided for by the state or the private sector. The social economy generates jobs and entrepreneurship by meeting social needs and very often by deploying the socially excluded.

This book provides a sober, evidence-based, account of experience in the social economy, in order to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, and its future potential. We examine and explain the range of expectations - academic and policy - that have emerged in recent years across the developed world (Chapters 1 and 2). We then focus on the policies of New Labour in Britain - increasingly presented as a paradigmatic 'Third Way' that typifies the new centrality of the social economy - and evaluate their expectations against experience on the ground in the UK (Chapter 3). As much of the contemporary rhetoric surrounding the social economy is based around the powers of place, in essence the argument that local community mobilisation for local provision can help resolve local social exclusion, Chapters 4 and 5 compare the dynamics of social enterprises in four

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