Emancipatory Social Innovation: Neo-Polanyian Theoretical Foundations (CJNSER / ReCROES paper)

The current ecological and social crises are shaking the foundations of society and invite reflection on the capacity of social innovations to generate systemic transitions. As conceptualized by Erik Olin Wright, the trajectories of contemporary emancipatory social innovations are encountering blockages that limit their transformative potential. This article develops the concept of social effect to better understand the complex dynamics at the root of this problem by mobilizing Nancy Fraser’s neo-Polanyian critical theory. This theory, applied to the microsocial, mesosocial and macrosocial scales, allows us to operationalize the issue of the paradoxes encountered and generated daily by the actors of social innovation. The resulting approach to emancipatory social innovation aims to better understand the hybridization of resources and the strategies adopted by organizations to develop the structural power necessary to effect a systemic socioecological transition. The approach also draws attention to the paradoxical social effects generated through the social innovation actors’ daily practices.