Introduction: Solidarity Economics – emancipatory social change or self-help?

Crisis-prone economic development, which we can understand with Mandel (1980) as following long waves of alternating periods of high and low growth, seems to correlate with a similar cycle of declining and growing interest in alternative economics. As reflected by a growing number of publications (Singer 2002; Wallerstein 2002; Albert 2003; Altvater/Sekler 2006; Gibson-Graham 2006; Santos 2006; Vilmar 2008) and activist conferences (Eid 2003; Embshoff/Giegold 2008), we can observe that economic crises encourage debates about alternative forms of organizing economies and societies. Just as the capitalist system of resource allocation is displaying dysfunctional effects and people are struggling for their jobs and economic survival, we witness a growing interest in heterodox economics and alternative forms of organizing economic activity. In this context, one important demand of economically underprivileged parts of society, whose basic needs cannot be satisfied in the conventional economy any more, is the radical reorganization of the economy. This has recently been articulated for example in demands for the re-regulation of financial markets and proper social policies that are able to cushion the social effects of the current economic crisis. By those means, amongst others, the dictate of capital shall give way to a bigger influence of labour and society in general in the distribution of economic outputs.