This special issue seeks to expand knowledge and raise discussion about new cooperativism. The guest editorial outlines the history and significance of its development, including for example social co-operatives in Italy and recuperated companies in Argentina, and provides an overview of the papers included in the issue.
In 2021, guest editors Rory Ridley-Duff and Mary O'Shaughnessy and UKSCS together with EMES International Research Network (EMES) and European Research Institute for Co-operative and Social Enterprise (EURICSE), also hosted in a seminar series on new cooperativism.
The new cooperativism, the commons, and the post-capitalist imaginary
Marcelo Vieta and Doug Lionais, pp. 9-24.
This article explores the intersection of the commons and co-operatives resonating with the concept and practices of today’s new cooperativism. We argue that the commons, understood as a transformative vision for the social stewardship of vital dimensions of social and economic life, is a key animator of the co-operative difference and that the new cooperativism re-establishes co-operatives within their radical commons heritage. We begin the article with a brief review of the history of co-operatives and their relationship to capitalism and crises. We then explore the issue of the commons as a unifying force of post-capitalistic thought and practice and connect it to the new cooperativism. To illustrate the possibilities inherent to the co-operative form for a more radical, post-capitalist vision, we then turn our attention to an illustrative case of new cooperativism today — Argentina’s worker-recuperated enterprises. This case demonstrates the potential vibrancy of commons-based co-operatives for a post-capitalist alternative, offering tantalising details of the new cooperativism in practice. The final section provides a discussion of new cooperativism’s possibilities for organising the commons and catalysing post-capitalist imaginaries.
The production of change: The social power in recuperated enterprises
Denise Kasparian and Julián Rebón, pp. 25-36
Worker-recuperated enterprises are experiences of social change in production. After over a decade of their spread and expansion in Argentina, this article takes stock of such experiences originated by the processes of worker-recuperated enterprises once they were consolidated, by posing the following question: To what extent does this form of “new cooperativism” imply social empowerment? Based on the comparative analysis of ten recuperated enterprises, we have characterised these enterprises with the aim of depicting potentialities and limitations regarding the dynamics of change and the growing social empowerment they portray. We suggest that recuperated enterprises represent a form of production which combines the control by the social power of associated workers with the competition in the capitalist market.
A few drops of plurality: New cooperativism beyond categorisation
Christian Franklin Svensson, pp. 37-43
Co-operativism comprises a diversity of stakeholders and motivations that often overlap and that are sometimes contradictory. These pluralist practices are difficult to place within typologies and registration models, which invites a discussion of the nature of ‘new cooperativism’, and a potential expansion of frameworks. It is prudent to discuss how we may achieve more nuanced understandings of new cooperativism to shed light on its ambiguities and possibilities. The question is, then, how alternative and pluralist practices in the ever-changing landscape of civil society and co-operativism can — or should — be framed or defined.
Practising sustainability beyond growth in eco-social entrepreneurship: An international comparative case study
Sunna Kovanen and Anna Umantseva, pp. 44-56
This paper explores whether and how eco-social enterprises (ESEs) in rural areas are able to foster sustainability beyond growth in their daily practice. We approach sustainability beyond growth as a radical intertwining of social, ecological and economic concerns, where economy is understood as the secure and long-term fulfilling of basic needs within planetary limits. The study compares daily practices of five established ESEs in Brandenburg, Germany and Alentejo, Portugal. The ESEs represent the fields of agriculture and tourism and are diverse in their organisational forms and sizes. The data includes ethnography, interviews and document analysis. According to the results, ESEs support transition towards sustainability beyond growth and extractivism by facilitating slow, caring and respectful production practices that balance the needs of nature and human participants. While findings demonstrate such practices across all organisational forms and sizes, they were the most ambitious and heterogeneous in large co-operatives in less peripheral locations with more initial resources. Ethical negotiations on economic risk-sharing and decision-making were intertwined in and stabilised by market relations and hierarchical decision-making. Small and peripheral ESEs need to balance between the risk of exclusivity, precarity, complexity of diverse participation and limited resources for coordination.
Cooperativism in cultural and tech sectors: Promises and challenges
Greig de Peuter, Bianca Dreyer, Marisol Sandoval, and Aleksandra Szaflarska, pp. 57-64
This paper reports on a survey of co-operatives in the cultural and technology sectors in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Creative industries are a growth area for new cooperativism, with more than a quarter of surveyed co-operatives in operation for less than five years. While the findings show that co-operation is a promising strategy for countering individualised experiences of work, for democratising workplaces, and for facilitating satisfying work in creative industries, they also reveal significant challenges which individual co-operatives and the wider co-operative movement must confront for cooperativism to have a sustainable and inclusive future in the cultural and technology sectors.
Italian community co-operatives and their agency role in sustainable community development
Michele Bianchi, pp. 65-77
Italian community co-operatives are the most recent evolution of the Italian co-operative movement. They operate to carry out community development processes, which involve the local population in the re-thinking of socio-economic models of local development. They also create business opportunities using local resources and assets with particular attention to cultural aspects, local environments, and people’s needs. Generally, these co-operatives expand the mutualistic benefits — typically shared among co-operative members — with other community members because of the common belonging to the same place. Therefore, community co-operatives develop “community economies” for the general interest. What is less known about this phenomenon is whether and how community co-operatives consider the sustainability of their missions and activities. Drawing on sustainable community development theory, this paper reports on a comparative study of 17 Italian community co-operatives based on semi-structured interviews with representatives. Findings show how members use the co-operatives as an agency to foster sustainable development in their communities.
New Cooperativism Seminar Series – Review
Rory Ridley-Duff, pp. 78-83
In 2021, the UK Society for Co-operative Studies (UKSCS) formed an editorial board with the European Research Institute for Co-operative and Social Enterprise (EURICSE), the EMES International Research Network (EMES) and Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) to organise a seminar series on “new cooperativism”. Each seminar followed a strict research protocol to elicit narratives from experts in the field. An experienced facilitator introduced and interviewed panellists before dividing seminar participants into breakout groups. Members of each breakout group reported on their discussions and debates before panellists gave closing statements. In this article, I review videos and transcripts of the seminars. These not only reveal how new cooperativism was framed by the editorial board during the seminar series, but also presents findings that suggest a new consensus amongst practitioners and researchers. By rejecting neoliberal doctrine, grassroots movements are fostering a culture of mutuality that supports co- operative development and accounting practices aligned to sustainable development.