The Emerging Action Fields of Solidarity Economy: The Brazilian Case
Fligstein and McAdam’s (2012) claim that an “emerging action field” (EAF) is a space where “rules do not yet exist”, but are progressively constructed as a result of the discursive construction of collective interests. This communicative process, in its turn, results from the interaction between participating actors. This perspective does not take into account the possibility that such process may in itself be regulated by pre-existing norms and repertoires of action and repertoires that were circulating within the public sphere. As a result, it is not able to account for the way in which “challenger groups” within EAFs challenge those pre-existing norms and promote new rules and action frames, therefore contributing to their emergence and consolidation as autonomous “Strategic Action Fields” (SAF). This paper aims to fill that gap in SAF theory by connecting it with Habermas’ theory of “communicative action”, as well as Fraser and Young’s theory of “counterpublics”. It uses the process of emergence of the Brazilian Solidarity Economy movement as an illustration of: 1) how pre-existing norms and repertoires of action within a “counterpublic” regulate the emergence of an EAF; 2) how “challenger groups” within an EAF promote normative and strategic innovation, therefore promoting the emergence of an autonomous field; 3) how the pre-existing norms and repertoires act as a common “matrix” that prevents secession, by ensuring that the norms and action frames developed by “challenger groups” will not diverge too much from those of other groups within the EAF.