Skip to content


Christian M. Alonso

The Social and Solidarity Economy. Other realities are possible

- The Social and Solidarity Economy tries to provide answers, solutions and alternatives to the great problems of inequality that prevail in society.

The Social and Solidarity Economy. Other realities are possible

There have been many attempts to demonstrate the advantages of the current economic system. However, the COVID-19 pandemic served as a trigger that has served to underline the existing social and economic inequalities, since while the poverty line increased throughout the world, the wealth of a limited number of people did the same. people. Such an outrageous situation has brought into discussion the need to create alternative consumption and development models that opt for a better redistribution of capital. Such is the case of Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS), which seems to offer an alternative response to this problem.

What is the Social and Solidarity Economy?

In simple words, we could define it as “another vision of the economy”. One that tries to provide answers, solutions and alternatives to the great problems of inequality that prevail in society through universal values such as fraternity, equity and economic solidarity. However, some International Organizations, such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) try to define it as:

"Concept that designates companies and organizations, in particular cooperatives, mutual benefit societies, associations, foundations and social enterprises, which have the specific characteristic of producing goods, services and knowledge while pursuing both economic and social objectives and fostering solidarity".

Said definition definitely falls into ambiguity since it reduces the ESS to a “concept” that it labels academic, beyond what it really is, a functional model. Therefore, a more exact definition is that given by the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS), which indicates that:

The social solidarity economy (ESS) is an alternative to capitalism and authoritarian economic systems controlled by the State. In the SSE, ordinary people have an active role in determining the course of all dimensions of human life: economic, social, cultural, political and environmental... In the SSE it is not only about reducing poverty, but also to overcome inequalities, which cover all social classes”

The Social and Solidarity Economy goes beyond political spectrums, as there are detractors who argue that, being an alternative to capitalism, it should not use the "innovations" that this model has created for "pro" humanity. However, "the ESS has the capacity to use the best practices of the present system (such as efficiency, use of technology and knowledge) and channel them towards the benefit of the community" (RIPESS, s/a)

In this way, there are various organizations within the Social Economy whose logic is "to contribute to ensuring the reproduction with increasing quality of life of its members and their communities of belonging or, by extension, of all humanity" (Coraggio, 2011), thus differentiating themselves from capitalist companies focused, in itself, on the accumulation of capital based on a pyramidal model of distribution.

These organizations are:

  • Cooperatives producing goods and services for the market in general, for solidarity markets, or for the self-consumption of its members,
  • Provision of personal solidarity services (care for people, care for the environment, recreation, therapeutics, etc.)
  • Associations of autonomous producers (artisans, arts workers, trades, etc.) that sell together, generate their own brands and designs, compete cooperatively, etc.
  • Cultural associations for community meetings (neighborhood, gender or generational, ethnic, sports, etc.) and affirmation of identities;
  • Mutual aid networks, social security, attention to local, family or personal catastrophes,
  • Unions of salaried workers of the State or of the capital,
  • Meeting spaces for experiences, reflection, systematization and collective learning.

A failing system

Why is there so much talk about the decline of the current system? The answer is easy, because more than "thirty years of neoliberalism have made evident the structural nature of the social question proper to capitalism: the massive exclusion from employment, the erosion of wages and social rights, the expanded concentration of wealth , the liberation of a ferocious globalized market in its punishments to which it cannot compete, the expansion of a so-called informal sector that engulfs itself by the savage competition for survival”. (Coraggio, 2011).

Proof of this is found in the Report on Global Inequality 2022, published by the World Inequality Lab, whose results show that "the richest 10% of the world's population currently receives 52% of world income, while the poorest half 8.5% of the population earns”, that is, a person in the top 10% earns an annual income of just over $100,000, while a person in the poorest half earns about $3,900 during the same period. time frame.

Source: World Inequality Report 2022, WIL. Available at:\_WorldInequalityReport2022\_Spanish.pdf

“Global wealth inequalities are even more pronounced than income inequalities. The poorest half of the world's population barely owns 2% of total wealth. In contrast, the richest 10% of the world's population owns 76% of all wealth. On average, the poorest half of the population has a net worth of €2,900 PPP per adult, that is, USD 4,100, and the top 10% have a net worth of €550,900 (or USD 771,300) on average. ”

World Inequality Lab, 2022.

Similarly, the pandemic caused an unprecedented rise in poverty lines globally. According to ECLAC (2021), only in the American continent, "it is estimated that the total number of poor people amounted to 209 million at the end of 2020, 22 million people more than the previous year." And as if it were a satire, the pandemic doubled the fortune of the ten richest people in the world.

“The ten richest men in the world more than doubled their fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion—at a rate of $15,000 per second or $1.3 billion per day—during the first two years of a pandemic that has seen the income of 99 percent of humanity fall and more than 160 million more people are forced to live in poverty.”

Oxfam, 2021

Building solidarity futures

Developing alternatives to the current system is no longer just an academic whim, but a real necessity. Various investigations have verified that the role of SSE organizations, such as cooperatives, have a great impact that ranges from the generation of jobs and human well-being, to great contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the countries.

Some clear examples are those offered by the regional Cooperative Alliance Co-operatives of the Americas:

  • In Paraguay, 783,000 people or 18% of the population are members of 1,047 cooperatives. These have a direct impact on the livelihoods of more than 6 million people.

- In Canada, four out of ten Canadians are members of at least one cooperative. In Quebec, approximately 70% of the population are members of cooperatives, while in Saskatchewan 56% are members (2012)

- In Uruguay, cooperatives are responsible for 3% of GDP. They produce 90% of the total milk production, 340% honey and 30% wheat. 60% of cooperative production is exported to more than 40 countries around the world (2011)

- In the United States, 30,000 cooperatives provide more than 2 million jobs (2011)

- In Colombia, the cooperative movement provides 137,888 jobs through direct employment and an additional 559,118 jobs as worker-owners in worker cooperatives, providing 3.65% of all jobs in the country (2012)

- In Brazil, cooperatives are responsible for 37.2% of agricultural GDP and 5.4% of world GDP (2009)

- The assets of financial cooperatives in El Salvador exceed 1,300 million, representing 9.3% of the total national financial system (2010)

Cooperatives around the world have close to 1 billion members and generate 100 million jobs, 20% more than multinational companies (2012).

- Sales of the world's 300 largest cooperatives total $1.1 trillion, an amount comparable to the GDP of some of the major national economies

As well as the examples listed, there are even more success stories around the world. This helps us understand that, given the abandonment of the prevailing system, society has opted for new forms of economic organization, which work, and work well.

Final considerations

Throughout this article, various data have been exposed that tacitly demonstrate that the current system is in decline. That its main essence is not social welfare, but the excessive accumulation of capital for a few. However, despite this, we must understand that this system is immersed in each one of the social structures, not only in the economic sphere, but also in the technological one, and even in the ideological one.

It is meritocracy that guides this systematic ideology, which creates the famous narratives that argue that inequality is, in essence, inherent to the human condition in all societies throughout history. However, it is necessary to move away from that ideological factor, begin to discern and question whether the system is fair to each one of us and, as difficult as it may seem, accept that there are alternative forms of social organization that put the common good above the accumulation of capital.


    Co-operatives in the Americas. Disponible en:

    Coraggio, José Luis. Economía social y solidaria. El trabajo antes que el capital. Disponible en:

    Organización Internacional del Trabajo. Economía social y solidaria (en inglés). Disponible en:–en/index.htm

    Oxfam International. Ten richest men double their fortunes in pandemic while incomes of 99 percent of humanity fall. Disponible en:

    Piketty, Thomas. Capital and Ideology, 2020, Harvard University, Londres.

The best content in your inbox

Join our newsletter with the best of CEMERI

Related articles

M., Christian. “La Economía Social y Solidaria. Otras realidades son posibles.” CEMERI, 13 sept. 2022,