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Wesleyan University

Publication Date

Fall 2006

Program Name

Southern Cone: Regional Integration, Development and Social Change


Economía solidaria is an alternative method of development that has sprung up in the last two decades in Latin America as a response to the devastating effects of neo-liberal policies. The questions that I was interested in exploring with this investigation were: How is economía solidaria defined in theory? How does it manifest in practice? What explains this discrepancy, if one exists? What do these answers tell us about the limitations, potentials, and unique contributions of economía solidaria? To search for these answers I studied two organizations of economía solidaria, where I utilized qualitative methods of observation, interviews, review of literature written by the organizations and by academics. Teko Joja Kuña Rempiapópe is a community seeking economic justice for women artisans in Itaguá, Paraguay, founded by a religious charitable international organization: Las Hermanas del Buen Pastor. The other organization is Titrayju, a brand of yerba mate that works to give its small-scale producers in Misiones a fair price and a political voice, organized by the Movimiento Agraria de Misiones. For many social movements throughout history the development of a theory may work ideally, but lack force or successful application, because it doesn’t respond to or fit with actual local conditions. In this way, I found that economía solidaria is truly a uniquely valuable response. Economía solidaria attempts to create a unified and connected network of solidarity; however every application is essentially a local solution. Though it is unified and organized by clearly articulated guiding principles, it is built to have the flexibility to mold attentively to local conditions and needs. In my investigations I found that this responsive nature allowed a contribution to the complicated and complete nature of the challenges of the women artisans in Itaguá or the producers of yerba in Misiones. The micro focus of economía solidaria means that it can be effective on the social, economic, and political level. However, the specific nature of the approach also means that natural alliances, support, and markets are harder to find. Without organized and reliable state support, the scope and transformative powers of economía solidaria are limited.


Politics and Social Change


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