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Solidarity cooperatives: the (hidden) origins of communitarian pluralism in the UK social enterprise movement

Ridley-Duff, Rory and Bull, Mike (2019) Solidarity cooperatives: the (hidden) origins of communitarian pluralism in the UK social enterprise movement. Social Enterprise Journal. ISSN 1750-8614 (In Press)

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Abstract

This paper re-evaluates social enterprise (SE) history to pinpoint a pluralist turn in communitarian philosophy during the 1970s that has the potential to transform labour and consumer rights in enterprise development. Through a close examination of model rules created by founders of the FairShares Association (FSA), we find that the communitarian origins of SE are disturbingly obscured and hidden. In studying FSA documents and building a timeline of the development of the FairShares Model (FSM) we found links between SE developments in the UK, continental Europe, Asia, North/South America and the development of solidarity cooperatives. We argue that the discovery of a communitarian pluralist turn advances ‘new cooperativism’ by enfranchising both labour and users in industrial relations (IR). Using this insight, we challenge accounts of SE history and argue for more research on SE’s potential contribution to radical IR. The paper highlights the potential of the FSM as a vehicle for catalysing new SE and IR practices that share wealth and power more equitably between social entrepreneurs, workforce members, service/product users and community/social investors.

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