Materials & Links for Sociology 929, fall 2010: The Social Economy


Economic activities are organized in four primary ways in contemporary societies: through capitalist markets, by the state, within the family, and in the “social economy.” The social economy is the least familiar of these forms and has received the least systematic treatment by sociologists and economists. Indeed, the term itself is not yet standard in theoretical discussions of economic forms, and so a variety of other terms are sometimes used to tap into the same general empirical domain: the solidarity community, the community economy, the nonprofit sector, the third sector, the citizen’s economy, among others. Negatively defined, these are economic activities that are not oriented to maximizing profits and not organized by the state or the family. Positively they are economic activities oriented to meeting individual and collective needs and organized through various kinds of voluntary associations within communities.



Readings Assignments for the seminar


Solidarity Economy Resources (prepared by Craig Borowiak)


End of semester retreat


Seminar session Audio recordings (MP3):

        session 1: Introduction part 1 part 2 part 3

        session 2: Dimensions of the Social Economy  part 1  part 2

        session 3: Alternative perspectives on the social economy   part 1  part 2

          session 4: A case study: innovative forms of urban agriculture (Growing power) part 1  part 2

        session 5:  Social enterprises: comparative studies part 1  part 2

        session 6: The social economy as a community economy part 1  part 2

        session 7:


Weekly reading Interrogations & Discussion agendas


Research Groups


Matt Hancock, Compete to Cooperate (Bacchilega Editore, 2007), English pages only



Other Relevant Readings

Lester M. Salamon, Helmut K. Anheier, Regina List, Stefan Toepler, S. Wojciech Sokolowski, and Associates  Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector, Volume One (Baltimore: Center for Civil Society Studies, 1999)

Ash Amin, Angus Cameron and Ray Hudson, Placing the Social Economy (Routledge, 2002)  Part I   Part II


Bibliography on the Social Economy assembled and annotated by Valerie Bourdeau, Concordia University

(annotations are in French for articles that are in French)


Social Economy Theory  * = no pdf available


Fontan, JM. and Shragge, E. (2000). Social Economy: International Debates and Perspectives. Montreal: Black Rose Books. *

This collection of essays examines social economy from several different vantage points, linking practice and policy questions to issues such as the reorganization of work and the shift of social services to the community. You have read it already, it is unavoidable.


Gazier, B. and Mendell, M. (2008). Karl Polanyi et la pédagogie de l’incohérence. Proposed article for Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics/Annales de l’économie publique, sociale et cooperative

Cet article vise à examiner de manière critique et constructive l’actualité de la pensée de Karl Polanyi  pour comprendre le développement de l’économie plurielle au XXIe siècle et pour agir sur celui-ci. Il montre la très grande actualité de cette pensée, ainsi que la nécessité de s’intéresser à l’œuvre entière de Karl Polanyi, et pas seulement à « La grande transformation ». Partant des usages multiples du concept d’encastrement et de désencastrement, il relie les propositions inspirées par Karl Polanyi sur « le processus institué de démocratisation économique » à des développements récents tant pratiques que théoriques : les « marchés transitionnels du travail » et la « nouvelle finance publique ».


Laville, J-L, Lévesque, B. and Mendell, M. (2007). The Social Economy: Diverse Approaches and Practices in Europe and Canada. Cahier de l’ARUC-ÉS C-11-2006

The fruit of a collaboration between many researchers on the social economy, this report presents an analysis of the theoretical approaches used in European and Canadian social economy research. First, the report provides an overview of the European solidarity economy paradigm. This is followed by an exploration of socioeconomic experiments in Canada and a thorough theoretical review covering a wide range of frameworks. The report also includes an exhaustive bibliography and many interesting social economy websites.


Mendell, M. (2003). Karl Polanyi and Instituted Process of Economic Democratization. Paper for conference proceedings: Polanyian Perspectives on Instituted Economic Processes, Development and Transformation ESRC, Center for Research on Innovation and Competition, University of Manchester October 23-25, 2003.

A short exegesis of Polanyi’s writings on the institutionalization of economic processes, especially processes of economic democratization.  Short, but very dense.


Moulaert, F. and Ailenei, O. (2005). Social Economy, Third Sector and Solidarity Relations: A Conceptual Synthesis from History to Present. Urban Studies 42(11) p. 2037-2053.

This paper attempts to provide a clear perspective on defining the social economy today. It addresses the question of the relevance of a unifying concept with its need to embrace the existing diversity of approaches and concepts. To this end, it surveys both historical and contemporary academic literature, as well as practice-rooted conceptualisations of the social economy. The first section outlines the analytical challenges to a reconstruction of the social economy concept. The second enhances the historical and space-bound diversity in theorising and institutionalising social economy practices. Section 3 focuses on contemporary reconceptualisations of the social economy in Francophone and Anglo-Saxon literature, while section 4 then suggests improvements to current ‘social economy’ concepts, by linking them to both the lessons of history and the views of social economy practitioners today.


 Moulaert, F. and Nussbaumer, J. (2005). Defining the Social Economy and its Governance at the Neighbourhood Level: A Methodological Reflection. Urban Studies 42(11) p. 2071-2088.

This largely methodological paper focuses on how to define the social economy and its governance at the local and especially the urban neighbourhood level. A distinction is made between essentialist and holistic definitions. The second section appraises the potential contribution of various current ideas in institutional economics and economic sociology to the definition of the social economy and its governance. It is found that ‘old’ and ‘new’ institutionalism in particular offer useful tools, including the holistic methodology as applied by John Commons. The third section elaborates on the analytical elements required for defining the social economy from a holistic perspective, stressing the role of essentialist abstract categories, the role of local culture and articulation between spatial scales. First, we show how the notion of social capital defined through a ‘holistic approach’ can enrich the definition of the social economy. Secondly, we stress the importance of empirical investigations in feeding into the holistic definitional work. The fourth section concludes the paper by enhancing the necessary dialogue between an abstract-essentialist and a contextualised holistic definition of the social economy at the neighbourhood level.


The Quebec Social Economy


Bouchard, M. And Hudon, M. (2008). Se loger autrement au Quebec: Le mouvement de l’habitat communautaire, un acteur du developpement social et economique. CAP Habitat Communautaire de l’ARUC-ES. Montreal: Editions St-Martin. *

Ce livre s’interesse a l’habitat communautaire au Quebec sous l’angle de l’innovation sociale. Il fait un bilan des dernieres decennies et identifie les defis, les enjeux et les perspectives de developpement qui se presentent avec des synthese analytiques et descriptives.


Mendell, M. (2009). Reflections on the Evolving Landscape of Social Enterprise in North America. 

Broad macro overview of social enterprise in the North American context, with a focus on Canada and, of course, Quebec. Asks whether the cultural specificities of the many countries in which social enterprises now occupy a significant socio-economic and political place are forcing a convergence towards a new global perspective on poverty reduction, social inclusion and socio-economic development.


Mendell, M. (2008). The Social Economy in Quebec: Lessons and Challenges for Internationalizing Cooperation. Prepared for the Centre for the Study of Cooperatives, University of Saskatchewan.

This paper provides an overview of the contemporary social economy in Quebec, its many achievements and results in terms of job creation and the promotion of collective enterprise. The focus, however, is on the evolution of the social economy in Quebec as a process. The analysis highlights the many elements that have allowed the social economy to assume the place it occupies in Quebec society today and the challenges that it confronts. The process of its evolution has been and will continue to be vital to the progress of the social economy in Quebec, and it is this process that provides important lessons for other regions.


Mendell, M. (2002) "The Social Economy in Québec. Discourse and Strategies" in Critical Political Studies: Debates and Dialogues for the Left. MacDonald, E. and Bakan, A. (Eds). Montreal, McGill-Queen's Press, pp. 468-502. * partially available on Google Books

More on the Quebec model, with an emphasis on the relationship between the social economy and the social movements that shaped the recent history of Quebec and on the transformative power of the third sector.


Mendell, M. and Neamtan, N. (2008). The Social Economy in Quebec: Towards a New Political Economy.

Brief overview of the social economy in Quebec, focusing especially on the contribution it makes to social innovation and public policy. Shows how the design of these public policies breaks with traditional policy formation, in which government departments devise and implement programs in isolation and from a top-down perspective to favour a co-constructive, horizontal and dialogic approach involving many stakeholders in society.


Salée, D. (2003). “Transformative Politics, the State, and the Politics of Social Change in Quebec” in Wallace Clement and Leah Voske (Eds) Changing Canada: Political Economy as Transformation. Montreal, McGill-Queen's Press, p. 25-50. * partially available on Google Books,%20the%20State,%20and%20the%20Politics%20of%20Social%20Change%20in%20Quebec%E2%80%9D&f=false

A counterpoint, of sort, to the other more positive portraits of the social economy in Quebec. Criticizes proponents of the Quebec model for overstating its transformative potential and downplaying its role as “an ideological tool of social cohesion that works in the end to further the agenda of the neoliberal state.”

Home/Health Care Services


Aubry, F., Jette, C and Vaillancourt, Y. (2004). L’économie sociale dans les services à domicile: une source d’innovations sociales? Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal

Le but de cette présentation est d’examiner si l’émergence et l’institutionnalisation du réseau des EESAD constituent aussi une source d’innovations sociales. Notre analyse se fera à deux niveaux. Dans la première partie du texte, après avoir rappelé les principales caractéristiques d’une innovation sociale et présenté la petite histoire des entreprises d’économie sociale en aide domestique à travers leurs phases d’expérimentation et d’institutionnalisation, nous tenterons de déterminer si la mise en place de ce réseau d’entreprises d’économie sociale constitue une innovation sociale dans le domaine des services à domicile. Dans la deuxième partie, nous déplacerons notre point de vue du niveau macro ou sectoriel vers le niveau micro afin d’évaluer si ces entreprises constituent un terreau fertile à l’innovation sociale. En conclusion, nous tenterons de cerner certains facteurs qui freinent la capacité d’innovation de ces entreprises et quelques conditions à mettre en place pour libérer leur potentiel d’innovation.


Aubry, F., Kearney, M., Tremblay, L.  and Vaillancourt, Y. (2003). Social Policy as a Determinant of Health and Well-Being : the Contribution of the Social Economy. Cahier de l’ARUC-ÉS R-02-2003.

This paper is devoted to analyzing the growing contribution of the social economy to social policy and comprises four parts. The first part proposes a definition of the social economy and aims at clarifying terms and concepts. In the second part, we look at the specific contribution of social economy organizations and enterprises in the realm of social policy. The third part examines the importance of citizen participation in the development of social policy and underlines the contribution of social economy to a more active citizenship. In the fourth part, we will address the question of a plural economy in which the social economy, through its interactions with the State and the market, impacts positively on the democratic and not so democratic workplace rules and practices within government and the for-profit sector.


Jenson, J. and Phillips, SD. (2000). “Distinctive Trajectories: Homecare and the voluntary Sector in Quebec and Ontario” in The Nonprofit Sector in Canada: Roles and Relationships. Banting, KG. (ed.), Montreal & Kingston: School of Policy Studies, McGill-Queen’s University Press. *

A study of the emergence of two distinct ways of restructuring the delivery of homecare services. Ontario and Quebec are the focus of this chapter: two provinces which emphasize home care over institutional care, albeit with different policies. Quebec: CLSC (centre local des services communautaires) and Ontario: CCAC (Community Care Access Centres). This essay illustrates that both organizations straddle the border between the public and non-profit sectors, with non-profit and government players performing interconnected roles. Toward the end of the 20th century, the government of Ontario continued to rely on mixed public private provision and a major role for non-profit agencies with volunteer boards. It continued to reinforce the role of non-public agencies to deliver these services. At the same time, Quebec was turning away from non-public agencies as ‘separate systems’ and culminating relationships with the voluntary sector, calling for more community development, more local involvement, less centralization, and less institutionalization.


Jetté, C., Dumais, L. and Vaillancourt, Y. (2003). Réflexions sur quelques expériences du laboratoire de recherche sur les pratiques et les politiques sociales (LAREPPS) en matière d’évaluation de l’économie sociale dans le domaine des services aux personnes. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal

Les organismes d'économie sociale, dans le domaine des services aux personnes, s'intéressent de près à la recherche évaluative. Ils cherchent des moyens de mesurer leur apport socio-économique et de démontrer de façon tangible leur contribution à la société. De cette démonstration dépend en grande partie la place qu'ils occuperont dans les nouvelles configurations institutionnelles qui se constituent en réponse aux insuffisances du fordisme et du providentialisme. Dans ce texte, les auteurs présentent quelques expériences de recherche, menées au Laboratoire de recherche sur les pratiques et les politiques sociales (LAREPPS), qui touchent l'aspect évaluatif. Ces recherches en partenariat montrent comment chercheurs et intervenants des milieux de pratiques doivent s'adapter et collaborer pour construire des outils méthodologiques fiables et adaptés au terrain.


Jetté, C and Vaillancourt, Y. (2009). L’économie sociale et les services de soutien à domicile au Québec: coproduction ou coconstruction? Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal

Depuis longtemps, au Québec, les organismes du tiers secteur jouent un rôle significatif dans l’offre des services de soutien à domicile. Cette offre de services a franchi une phase cruciale de développement, en 1996, lorsque le gouvernement du Québec, à la suite d’une deliberation publique déployée avec les acteurs de la société civile, a décidé d’impulser la création d’une centaine d’entreprises d’économie sociale en aide domestique (EESAD). Ces EESAD sont venues compléter l’offre de services publics de l’État québécois et participent ainsi de facto à une dynamique de coproduction des services dans un contexte de Mixed Economy incluant le tiers secteur. Mais au-delà de cette coproduction, ces entreprises cherchent à se positionner dans un processus de coconstruction avec l’État, c’est-à-dire dans un processus de construction conjointe et partenariale des politiques publiques balisant leur participation aux services d’intérêt public. L’analyse de ces deux processus montre que la situation des EESAD au Québec a oscillé, selon les périodes, entre la coproduction et diverses modalités de coconstruction. Certaines politiques budgétaires restrictives adoptées par l’État québécois ainsi que les tensions vécues au sein même des réseaux d’EESAD ont eu pour effet de freiner le développement d’un veritable processus de coconstruction, au cours des années 2000.


Lévesque, B. (2006). Une gouvernance partagée et un partenariat institutionnalisé pour la prise en charge des services d’intérêt général. Cahier de l’ARUC-ÉS C-13-2006

Cet article porte sur les notions de gouvernance partagée et de partenariat institutionnalisé, des formes qui sont traditionnellement associées aux politiques néolibérales. L’auteur soutient qu’il est possible de leur donner un autre contenu, de les mettre au service du bien commun et de la solidarité. En premier lieu, il est question du paradigme État-marché caractéristique des « Trente glorieuses », de ses origines, de ses origines mais aussi de ses défaillances. Dans un deuxième temps, l’auteur présente le nouveau paradigme de la gouvernance partagée et du partenariat institutionnalisé, qui semble s’imposer pour relever le défi des services d’intérêt général. Finalement, il expose les principaux défis qu’amènent ces deux éléments lorsqu’ils sont compris comme outils permettant de travailler à l’intérêt général.


Leviten-Reid, C. (2009). The Role of Cooperatives in Health Care: National and International Perspectives. Report from an international conference hosted by the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan and the Community Health Co-operative Federation.

Report from a conference on health cooperatives with a rather international flair (for a Saskatchewan university). Includes report on health coops in Japan, Spain, the USA and Canada. A little light on hardcore academic content, but good for illustrations and colour commentary. Of special interest: “User Participation and Quality of Home Support Services”.


Proulx, J., Dumais, L., Caillouette, J. and Vaillancourt, Y. (2007). Les services aux personnes ayant des incapacités au Québec: Rôle des acteurs et dynamiques régionales. Cahier de l’ARUC-ÉS C-06-2007.

Long (très long) rapport présentant les résultats d’une recherche au niveau national et régional sur portant sur les services dans le domaine des personnes ayant des incapacités au Québec. Les auteurs se penchent surtout sur l’impact de la désinstitutionalisation et de la non institutionalisation des services aux personnes ayant des incapacités. Ils explorent comment cette exigence d’intégration et de participation sociales accrue pour les personnes ayant des incapacités se traduit par une transformation des pratiques sur le terrain, en mettant notamment à contribution les organismes communautaires et les familles dans les services de soutien dans la communauté.


Vailancourt, Y. and Tremblay, L. (Eds). (2002). Social Economy: Health and Welfare in Four Canadian Provinces. (translated by S.A. Stilitz). Montreal/Halifax: Larepps/Fernwood. *

The focus in this publication is the role the social economy has in the provision of health and welfare services in four Canadian provinces. This entails: Quebec (childcare, homecare, and social housing); Ontario (commodification of government policies); Saskatchewan (homecare, food banks, and women’s shelters); New Brunswick (environmental and the women’s movement). The authors argue that the major crisis in the welfare state represents not only problems, but also opportunities. They acknowledge that each province differs in its context of the social economy. There are separate interests in each province; therefore, while some governments have embraced the social economy, others have distanced themselves from it. Each chapter discusses tensions and cooperation between the different governments (public sector), the market (private sector), and the informal and social economy.


Case Studies


Cawley, R. (1996). The Incomplete Revolution: The Development of Community Work in Quebec CLSC. Community Development Journal 31(1) p. 54-65.

This article surveys the history of community development in the local health and social service centres (commonly referred to as CLSCs) in the Province of Quebec. These developments are tied to three major steps in the evolution of policy as set out in a series of published reports. The development of the philosophy and mandate of the CLSCs is discussed and placed within the larger historical context of the 1980s as fiscal conservatism impacted on their operation and especially as it affected their community development role. The impact of these developments on the practice of community intervention work is presented in a case study, drawn from the author's experience as a participant observer in one urban CLSC. Linkages are made to policy developments as set out in the reports. The article concludes with an examination of current directions in community development policy and practice and makes some recommendations to strengthen these developments.


Dagenais, H. (2001). Coopérative de soutien à domicile de Laval: monographie d’une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Demers, C. (2002). Monographie de la Coopérative de services Rive-Sud. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Duchesne, K. and Malavoy, M. (2002a). Monographie du Service d’aide domestique de la région de Coaticook, une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Duchesne, K. and Malavoy, M. (2002). Coopérative de services à domicile de l’Estrie: monographie d’une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Fontaine, M., Reuze, AS and Jetté, C. (2002). Coopérative de soutien à domicile du Pays des Vergers: monographie d’une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Galerand, E. (2004). Répit-Ressource de l’Est de Montréal: monographie d’une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Guay, D., Corbeil, C. and Descarries, F. (2003). Coup de main à domicile: monographie d’une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Langlois, G. (2005). The Saint-Camille Care and Services Solidarity Cooperative and its Impact on Social Cohesion. Translation of: La Coopérative de solidarité en soins et services de Saint-Camille et son impact sur la cohésion sociale. Prepared for the Centre for the Study of Cooperatives, University of Saskatchewan.

This case study aims is to characterize the impact of the Coop de solidarité en soins et services de Saint-Camille’s activities on the community using the five dimensions pertaining to social cohesion — territoriality, accessibility of services, employability, democracy, and connectivity. The establishment of a housing co-operative alongside a co-op offering alternative health-care services as well as educational entertainment led to the creation of a unique model, which has attracted significant attention. This entity is commonly referred to as La Corvée. The innovative nature of the organization’s legal form, an assemblage of various categories of co-operative membership, as well as the innovative nature of the project as a whole are demonstrated throughout this paper.


Leclerc, MJ. (2009). Le processus de la création du CSSS et la reconfiguration des services du programme Perte d’autonomie liée au vieillissement (PALV). Cahier de l’ARUC-ÉS C-13-2009.


Savard, J. (2002a). Le service des aides familiales de La Baie: une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Savard, J. (2002b). La Coop de solidarité de services à domicile du Royaume, une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal


Vinit, F., Jetté, C., et Fontaine, M. (2002). La Grande Vadrouille : Monographie d’une entreprise d’économie sociale en aide domestique. Cahiers du LAREPPS Université du Québec à Montréal



Web Resources


Cahiers de l’ARUC

Cahiers du LAREPPS