From 25 to 27 May 2016, the 16th RIUESS Meeting, organised by the University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, focused on “commons” and the social and solidarity economy. What identities and what common dynamics?

It was presented as follows:

“Faced with the extension of private capitalist property in recent decades, particularly in the field of intellectual property, resistance and protest movements have developed, favouring other modes of appropriation based on associative groupings, mutualisation and sharing. The aim is to provide access to resources that are privately appropriated or at risk of being appropriated (free software, scientific journals, water, etc.). Alongside the modes of allocation by the market and the State, innovative modes of governance are being put in place. They enable joint management and shared access to resources.

You will find all the presentations (in French) of these days on

We asked Carmen Parra, Abat Oliba CEU University, Spain, to give us an introduction to her talk: From the economy of the commons to the solidarity economy.

The commons are defined as social practices that seek to establish collective governance in order to ensure access to certain resources that do not rely primarily on the market or public redistribution (Coriat, 2015). This definition gives rise to a new economic identity, according to which an individual who does not want to act alone would not be guided by the permanent quest to maximise his own material interests, but would associate his economic behaviour with a commitment to the community, would act in the public sphere – social, economic, political – and would place himself in relation to others in order to act in the general and common interest (Iaione, 2011).

They crystallise numerous legal, political, intellectual and economic issues where they propose an alternative to the market model and generate new spaces for the dissemination of knowledge (Harribey, 2010).


To implement this idea, there are various initiatives that have emerged as a response to the financial crisis with good results. Examples of this new economy are:

The collaborative economy is defined as a human activity that aims to produce value in common and is based on new forms, on an organisation that is more horizontal than vertical (Kaplan, 2014). It includes collaborative consumption (couchsurfing, car-pooling etc.) but also collaborative lifestyles (coworking, sharing, collective housing), collaborative finance (crowdfunding, peer-to-peer money lending, alternative currencies), contributory production (digital manufacturing, 3D printers, maker spaces) and free culture (Gillomes, 2013).

Alongside the collaborative economy is the circular economy, which is an economic concept that is part of sustainable development and is inspired by the notions of green economy, economy of use or economy of functionality. Its objective is to produce goods and services while strongly limiting the consumption and waste of raw materials and non-renewable energy sources.

Another form of economy that serves to implement the common is the citizen economy conceived as a new economic model (a third way) whose main actors are the citizens themselves. The citizen economy is based on values that are likely to win the support of a large number of people, since they are the same values that make our social relations successful: trust, cooperation, respect, democracy, solidarity.


The main drivers on which these economies are based are relationships, reputation, social trust and other non-economic elements within a community. That is to say, they are organised according to models based on both market and social logics.

All these economies are the vector of a new paradigm where the main actor is no longer the “consumer” who wants to own something or buy a service, but rather a citizen, a member of a commoner community, seeking access to a service or good that is necessary to satisfy some of his or her needs. Rather, he or she is a social, individual or civic actor for whom traditional economic motivations are secondary or completely non-existent.


However, these economies need regulation, which is achieved through the solidarity economy. Here are some of the tools that need to be analysed in order to implement the economy of the common good:

a) At the organizational level: Cooperatives serve to shape the enterprises created by citizens’ initiative in the collaborative economy system.

b) For finance: solidarity and ethical banking as well as ethical investment or microcredit are tools to optimise the use of capital in sustainable projects.

c) Economic: solidarity currencies are instruments of change for the benefit of the local economy.

d) For jobs: Workers’ rights must be protected using the principles of the solidarity economy based on positive discrimination and the general interest.

Therefore, it must be demonstrated that the solidarity economy can intervene in the regulatory phase of “other economies” that have emerged as a result of the failure of the market economy. The solidarity economy shares with them their social values respecting the profit present in all economic activity.

See full text (in French) and bibliographical references here.