The Third Sector in Europe

The Third Sector in Europe

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Adalbert Evers and Jean-Louis Laville

This book explores Europe’s third sector – the non-profit organisations and providers of social services such as mutuals, co-operatives, associations, voluntary organisations and charities: these elements of a civil society are important yet often overlooked features in contemporary socio-economics and social policy.

Chapter 4: French civil society experiences: attempts to bridge the gap between political and economic dimensions

Philippe Chanial and Jean-Louis Laville

Subjects: economics and finance, welfare economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy


Philippe Chanial and Jean-Louis Laville INTRODUCTION From the nineteenth century on, the principle of solidarity in Europe has been a major feature in the continuing effort to curb the debilitating effects of an expanding market economy. More than mere philanthropy, this principle originated in deep-rooted habits of self-help and mutual organization, through which the pattern of modern citizenship, based upon freedom and equality for all human beings, could be turned into a valuable economic asset. This model of association based on self-organization paved the way for the rise of a civil and solidarity-based economy in the middle of the nineteenth century, notwithstanding that the combination of the industrial revolution, the ideological triumph of liberalism and the sheer force used against various labour organizations had ushered in a steep decline in the belief in the solidarity-based economy. However, remains of this belief could be found in the various social economy organizations set up during the second half of the nineteenth century. These organizations, which remained different from capitalist associations in their legal structures, proved unable to transcend the clear-cut distinction between a market and a non-market economy, a distinction which resulted in both competition and cooperation between market and welfare state throughout Europe. Recently, however, this situation has changed with a growing number of initiatives. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, various attempts were made to reclaim the tradition of active citizenship which lies at the heart of the yearning for a solidarity-based economy. The aim of this chapter...

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