Within the current climate of rapacious neo‐liberal economic expansion and increasingly globalized public protest, the social economy tradition has again emerged as an important nodal point for practical and theoretical socio‐economic debate and action. However, as recent scholarship makes clear, there is no clear consensus on what this phrase means or the social and political role that this sector of society should play, given current conditions. This paper suggests an answer to both of these questions by focusing on and reworking the “radical/Utopian” stream of theorizing within the social economy discourse. It concludes that, unless the social economy movement recognizes the importance of reintegrating a “life‐world” politics into its economic vision, it will increasingly be used by government as the low‐ or no‐cost alternative to state‐funded social welfare. If this is allowed to happen the social economy will be relegated to an unofficial support/monitoring branch of government/neo‐liberal economic restructuring and, consequently, it will perpetuate the conditions which it has always been envisioned to challenge.
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