This paper discusses the concept of social economy. Based on an economic‐historical perspective, reciprocity is seen as the fundamental principle for the social economy. In contrast to the “official” definitions, social economy is not restricted to only certain juridical forms. From the perspective outlined in this paper, social economy and commercial economy emerge not as opposite poles to each other but as parts of a continuous spectrum. Economic activities dominated by social objectives are also performed in other forms than the juridical forms of the social economy. Commercially‐dominated activities contain social elements as well. There are also many examples of social‐economic activities that expand, increase their commercialisation rate and subsequently are transformed to commercial enterprises. Studies on social features of the economy may thus be performed on a very wide field.
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