Plural democracy and economy

Studying the interweaving of the history of ideas and social practices, for a better understanding of contemporary theory and the choice of the social economy as model

In the 20th century, the political and economic debate focused on the relationship – opposition or complementarity – between the market and the state. This reductive dualistic view was combined with a focus on the Western social sciences, which have a strong tendency to invalidate knowledge derived from action and experience.

The scale of the challenges we face in the early 21st century calls for thinking outside of these inherited boxes.

  • The adjustments made to free-market capitalism by redistributive social states are not enough to stem the rise in inequality. The representative democratic processes on which these states are founded can retain their legitimacy only if they are in touch with more participative and deliberative forms of democracy.
  • Profit-seeking private businesses and public services are not the only sources of economic activity and jobs. All five continents are seeing the unprecedented rise of another component. While its size and vigour have raised it out of its initial marginal status, it has not yet been clearly identified, as witness the variety of terms used for it: not-for-profit associations, third sector, social economy, redistributive social economy.

The characteristics of the research initiative are as follows:

  • Reaching beyond field specialization in the social sciences by simultaneously studying the economic dimension of social movements and the political dimension of alternative economies.
  • Developing knowledge production mechanisms that include the interactions between theoretical and practical knowledge.
  • Taking account of the diversity of real-world situations in a globalized world to move beyond international comparisons and develop new theories based on North-South dialogue.
  • Envisage grassroots initiatives and public policies jointly, in order to design new templates for government action that have been debated among stakeholders, elected officials and the research community.



Scientific officer


4th EMES-Polanyi International Seminar

Call for papers
The 4th EMES-Polanyi seminar will address the emergence of transition as a new paradigm. The call for papers is open until the 8th of January.