Transformative or palliative?
: A comparison of the role of the Social and Solidarity Economy in Argentina and the United Kingdom in the context of a neoliberal economy

  • Paola Raffaelli

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The focus of this thesis is the role played by the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in a global economy dominated by neoliberalism. Although neoliberalism is the hegemonic economic model, it has proved itself incapable of meeting the needs of large sectors of the population, and civil society has responded with its own solutions. These responses have theorised by academics from two opposing perspectives: either as a means of ameliorating the worst consequences of the free-market economy, or as an expression of a different economy that seeks economic emancipation. These two opposed conceptualisations are what I have identified as the ‘palliative’ and ‘transformative’ poles, and the dichotomy between them became the theoretical lenses for this research. Hence, the SSE is portrayed as a battlefield, in which hegemonic and counter-hegemonic actions form part of the discourse of the members of SSE organisations under study.
    For me, the most appropriate methodological approach was poststructuralism, since it allowed me to question the narrow classical understanding of economics and shed light on counter-hegemonic economic forms. Moreover, through adopting the epistemology of the South I rejected Eurocentric conceptualisations of the SSE and highlighted the significance of building up a broader understanding of economic action. I conducted a critical ethnographic study that comprises the in-depth research of worker co-operatives and voluntary organisations in Argentina and the United Kingdom. Applying Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as a methodology this research provides a radical understanding of SSE organisations as part of an economy of resistance.
    The thesis makes four distinct contributions to knowledge. First, I theorise the inherent contradiction in the SSE between the palliative and transformative poles, which the majority of literature glosses over. Secondly, this thesis creates a bridge between SSE theorisations in the Southern and Northern hemispheres, offering entirely novel comparative analysis especially in terms of the interaction of government policy and SSE activity. The philosophical approach is my third novel contribution, as this research uses CDA in an ethnographic poststructural study for the first time. Finally, given my epistemological stance, my fourth contribution is a critique of the idea of the SSE as a unified economic sector, and a theorisation that embraces rather than concealing the inherent and timeless tensions between palliative and transformative action. Inevitably, this thesis has opened up many new questions to be addressed in future work, as the conceptualisation of the SSE is an essentially contested terrain, and one which has much potential to offer future scholars.
    Date of Award30 May 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorMolly Scott Cato (Supervisor) & Steven Howlett (Supervisor)

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