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Social and Solidarity Economy :
the source of a new theory of economy 

The way out of the economic crisis? 
Numerous academics are investigating as well as pursuing new research approaches. Our research in this field is summed up in our 2011 work about the principles of Social and Solidarity Economy originally published under the French title of Principes d’Économie Solidaire
The conclusion of our book was that a radical change of the current representation of economy was a prerequisite if a way out of the present conceptual impasse was to be explored. 
Contrary to orthodox liberal views, our approach to economy - for which we coined the new deliberalism term – is radically different. It stems from what we hold as a basic principle: the best way to allocate resources in a democratic society will not rely on the 'Invisible Hand' purported to govern markets but rather on a deliberative consensus reached by all parties concerned. 
Just to mention a few novel social economy experiences, such as resource management, it seems obvious that present knowledge-based exchange networks fully validate our use of the term of deliberalism
The collapse of the Berlin wall did not herald “The End of History”, it rather highlighted the weaknesses of our present economic system
This fall as such seemed to validate the unquestionable victory of much vaunted self-regulated markets. But the 2007 economic crisis put paid to such beliefs. Not only did it clearly bring to light the shortcomings of unregulated markets but also reasserted the essentially political nature of the economy. 
Globalised markets will not mark the "end of history" in any way. More than ever it is necessary to invent the economic system of tomorrow. Under which guise, who can tell? Yet many people would like such a system to be more democratically managed, more responsible, fairer in a word. If we keep this in mind, Social and Solidarity Economy will pave the way for new in-depth thinking.        
Social and Solidarity Economy is henceforth abridged as SSE 
SSE comprises four characteristics: 
- The need for active political and militant action in favour of worldwide solidarity as opposed to aimless globalisation of the economy 
- A host of economic activities revitalising local areas free from the constraints of demand-and-offer mechanisms and monetary speculation. 
- A global project for society as far as the field of economy is concerned: a hope-inspiring utopia in search of a fairer society with a view to broadening democracy and endowing it with more substance. 
- A new theoretical template in today’s fast developing knowledge-society assuming that the best available way of redistributing resources does not rely on markets but on deliberation. 
One of the requirements of an in-depth study of SSE will be to determine to what extent the exhaustive overhaul of theoretical approaches regarding economy is essential 
Just like Adam Smith who discovered the laws governing markets while studying innovative economic trends in pin manufacturing, we deem it possible to rely on the most innovating solidarity initiatives to bring their underlying principle to the fore: deliberation (Habermas, 1997). 
This very term is meant a key concept of democracy, which cannot and will not be reduced to a mere parliamentary procedure: decision-making originating from the votes of leaders. What characterises democracy is the existence of a “public area ” allowing debate about common welfare. The issues related to wealth creation and the sharing of wealth are inherently party to such debate. 
However while assuming that the economic order is a basic tenet of democracy, it doesn't ensue that democracy and capitalism are but one and the same. 
Fernand Braudel (1980) defined society as the grouping of collective units brought together, a complex interplay between agreements and controversies within systems endowed with their own logic, i.e. economy, politics, and the realm of symbols. 

Reinstating the political and symbolical dimensions of economic analysis doesn't mean reverting to the type of political economy favoured by ‘orthodox economists’. First and foremost it means forging new tools to appropriate the complexity of democratic societies within which the economy is imbedded. 
Our purpose is not to negate the peculiarities of the economy but to put forth a new vision that is not separate from democracy but regulated by the same deliberative principle, which will term as deliberation. 
There is no doubt that deliberation - regarded as the building block for common rules and regulations which will emerge by confronting the different points of view put forth by equal partners enjoying equal rights - has now become an unquestionable economic tenet.  
Instances of deliberation for example can be found in the management of common wealth as described by the 2010 Nobel Prize recipient E. Ostrom dealing with the rise of a knowledge-based society e.g. Wikipedia, and obviously with most social economy initiatives. This fully justifies our coining of the term deliberalism to characterise the alternative economic model which SSE will herald. 

Deliberalism: a new theory for an evaluative approach assessing the economic order  
Since it is our wish to be part of the renewal of economic theory, our work will make use of the term ‘deliberalism’. What could be construed as a play on word stresses that freedom and liberty are not the preserve of liberalism. To the contrary deliberalism enables us to build a theoretical model clearly at odds with the liberal model. It also encompasses an interdisciplinary framework for our studies in which deliberation is viewed as the economic regulatory principle of democratic societies. 
As a matter of fact, J.L. Laville in his research work has clearly shown that - while implementing social entrepreneurship through the use of a collective public domain - a new economic principle based on collective deliberation will be fostered on a par with market arbitrage or state regulation. 
Social initiatives clearly demonstrate beyond dispute that there is a suitable domain for other ways of producing, distributing as well as spending provided the wishes and expectations of all economic actors are sought. It will also mean subjecting economic variables to decisions reached through collective deliberation. 
In other words, economy standards may originate from a contradictory debate between participants. 
This is precisely what we term as the evaluative approach to economy. Evaluative is a word to be understood with a twofold meaning: 
- on the one hand, the economy consists in endowing resources with monetary value thus allowing us to evaluate them. 
- on the other hand, the weight as well as the size of the economy and the role it plays in our societies rely on the evaluations carried out by different actors or participants depending on how monetisation is either restricted or extended to different activities. 
Our approach to economy does not postulate the paucity of resources – there is no denying that some resources are rare while others are definitively not – but we rather define the economic order as the means of endowing resources with value. 
The TLF dictionary, one the best known and most recent French language dictionaries, defines the word 'resource' as a means to extricate one-self from difficulties. 
Defining the economic order as a way of endowing resources with value reveals that its purpose is to utilise all means whether they derive from nature or human activities in order to improve our well being. 
Such economic order encompasses non-monetary activities: so called self-production and monetary activities which we will decide to term as economy 
In fact, in keeping with C. Lefort who stressed in 1986 the difference between policy regarded as the defining of norms and ‘politics’ - i.e. the struggle for power- we will distinguish between symbols - i.e. tools for constituting and exchanging beliefs- and ‘symbolics’ - the use of symbols-Therefore economy - i.e. endowing resources with value- is different from ‘economics’- i.e. attributing value to resources-. 

Two points ought to be noted 
This theoretical approach defines Economy as the realm of monetary value. Such definition of Economy based on monetary exchanges is not uncommon nor even rare. For example B. Schmitt in 1984 as well members of the school of regulation such as F. Lordon and A. Orlean in 2006 consider monetary criteria as a basic precondition for the existence of economy. 
Monetary value does not necessarily imply the use of an official currency. We deem that Local Exchange Systems, i.e. LES, are essential constituents of what we term as Economy. 
What makes this research work original does not lies in defining a framework based on economy but in linking economy, politics and symbolical meaning. Our purpose is not to define economy as a subject matter beyond the realm of social economy but as a constituent of democracy. The way out of the present crisis will become possible only if we forsake an inadequate view of economy. 
Table N°1: Two conflicting views of economy: Neoclassism and Deliberalism. 
Relying on innovating practice, we can conceptualise social and solidarity economy as a new template at variance with the prevailing neo-classical approach. What makes the theoretical framework of our research original and radically different doesn't reside in a framework mainly based on economy but rather hinges economic thinking on politics and symbolics as defined above. It behoves us to regard economy including social concerns as a constituent of our democratic systems. The economic crisis will not be dealt with unless the prevailing ill-adapted mis-conceptions about the economy are forsaken.