This website provides an array of information about how to participate in the solidarity economy to help grow its institutions and spread a renewed appreciation for its ethical principles of personal responsibility and compassion. Below, you will find basic information about the solidarity economy and background for each section of the website. In connecting sections, you can also find information about making decisions that benefit both you and the rest of the world, and a list of sources you may peruse for further information about the solidarity economy.
The American capitalist economy in which we all participate has led to the decline in biodiversity, ecological well-being, and health and happiness of the American people. This is the result of a complex array of interconnected factors. First, the government, over which the private sector has great influence, makes policies that serve to benefit business over people and the mass manufacturing of products over responsible production. Manipulated by powerful marketing campaigns and corporate media, people purchase products and services they cannot afford or do not need in order to elevate their social standing or artificially acquire the emotions and lifestyles associated with particular products. As a result, people are working more than ever before in order to purchase products that, in the end, do not fulfill them and waste the earth’s resources. Furthermore, the capitalist economy has allowed certain groups in society to have economics advantage over others (e.g. white men versus women of color), which creates distortions and injustices that lead only to more problems. There are many negative process that work to create hierarchies among certain groups based on factors that include, but are not limited to, gender, race, class, age, sexual preference, religion, and physical capabilities. These “hierarchical polarization” (HP) processes* are listed below.
- Categorization- categories are created (e.g. “Boy” or “Girl)
- Ascription- people are assigned to categories (e.g. “You are a boy.”)
- Polarization- categories are differentiated (e.g. “Boys do this, girls do that.”)
- Hierarchization- categories are deemed superior or inferior (e.g. “What boys do is better, or more important, than what girls do.”)
- Domination/Subordination- “Superior” groups are given power over “inferior” groups (e.g. men are allowed to vote and women are not allowed to vote.)
- Violence- The “superior” group uses violence to maintain its power (e.g. rape, domestic violence)
- Rationalization- pseudo-science, religious dogma, or fallacious arguments are used to justify the hierarchization of the groups. (e.g. “Men are generally bigger and stronger than women, so it is right that they should have power over them,” and “Eve was made from Adam’s rib, so it is right that she should be his inferior.”)
- Internalization- people in each group accept, or internalize, the hierarchy based on what they learn from social institutions and from the expectations others have for them. (e.g. “I am a girl, and since society tells me that girls aren’t good at science, I shouldn’t pursue my interest in it because I will not be or should not be good at it.”)
- Stigmatization- society teases or ostracizes those who deviate from the accepted social norm in order to maintain the status quo. (e.g. “‘You’re a girl and you want to be a scientist? You’re a loser.”)
The solidarity economy is an economy in which the very opposite is true as a result of the “transformative” processes that work to counteract those HP processes. These transformative processes are listed below.
- Questioning/Envisioning- people begin to question the status quo (e.g. “Is it right to value what boys do more than what girls do?” and “Are women naturally inferior or is it just that society has incorrectly led us to believe that they are?”)
- Equal Opportunity- the “inferior” group works with their allies to gain equal rights and opportunities (e.g. the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Feminism)
- Valuing the Devalued- people assign greater value to the “inferior” group and its practices while assigning less value to the “superior” group and its practices (e.g. female empowerment, repudiating “macho” men).
- Integrating- people of both groups come together as one. (e.g. women integrating into the workforce).
- Discernment- people address the distortions and injustices caused by HP processes that infiltrate societal values, practices, and institutions. (e.g. men confront sexist men, parents participate in “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”).
- Combining- people recognize that different social issues are interrelated, and so their groups join forces to create greater change. (e.g. Feminist Movement joins with Civil Rights Movement to create a new paradigm based on equality).
- Globalizing/Localizing- people have a greater sense of unity with all citizens of the world and seek balance and connection with one another.
These transformative processes work toward a society in which all people are valued and respected, and have the means to shape fulfilling, positive lives for themselves. Furthermore, in a solidarity economy, the government operates in the interest of the good of society, not big business. Meanwhile, businesses work to maintain or enhance the environment’s well-being so that their production process is sustainable and because they value the earth as a generous giver of resources, not a commodity. In addition, people freely share their property with neighbors, minimize their use of non-renewable resources (e.g. fossil fuels), conserve and protect the sanctity of renewable resources (e.g. water, forests), and purchase products and services from local small businesses that provide workers with a living wage and health benefits. This kind of economy helps people to earn a salary that is directly proportional to their contribution to society. It ensures that all have freedom, comfort, health, and a clean environment in which to live.
* Hierarchical polarization processes and transformative processes are concepts that were created by Julie Matthaei and Barbara Brandt for their publication “The Transformative Moment”.
Background for Each Section
Eating is a huge part of our lives. Every day, we all face decisions about what to eat and how much to fill our plates. Because those decisions are already tough enough, we have provided a list of affordable restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers markets that only serve you the “good” stuff– natural, organic, local, and/or ethical food. The gorgeous colors and delicious taste of fresh, wholesome foods might even inspire you to climb to greater heights of culinary talent.
Non-monetary trade & sharing
Sharing is an important part of a sustainable lifestyle. For example, instead of each family in a neighborhood owning its own set of gardening and power tools (which are most likely used infrequently), it is far more efficient if neighbors share their tools. This allows each family to spend less money and form bonds with community members while having practically the same access to necessary resources. This section provides a variety of ways in which people can share resources as well as barter for the things they need.
Looking back on the 2008 Financial Crisis, it is evident that “too-big-to-fail” banks are not responsibly handling the nation’s wealth, so it’s time to take matters into our own hands. This section aims to provide useful money-saving tips and helpful information about local banks that contribute positively to society.