Peer reviewed articles
Martin Spence, pp. 5-15
The debate on the ‘productive problem’ was a source of friction and dominated several Co-operative Union congresses in the 1880s and 1890s. Nominally it concerned profit-sharing in producer co-operatives, but deeper co-operative principles and purposes were at stake. This paper focuses on a specific contemporary project, and a specific individual, to revisit that debate. The project is Tenant Co-operators Ltd., Britain’s first housing co-operative; the individual is Benjamin Jones, manager of the London Co-operative Wholesale Society, and the key figure in the co-operative’s formation. Jones was an active participant on one side of the ‘productive problem’ debate. And yet the paper finds that the financial model chosen for Tenant Co-operators Ltd., and the alliances mobilised by Jones in itsformation, cut across the divide created by the debate. The paper argues that, despite the passions surrounding the ‘productive problem’, the co-operative movement was united by a broad consensus which informed practical activities such as the formation of Tenant Co-operators Ltd. This consensus was focused on the goal of social harmony; and this goal was in turn informed by the powerful connections between the co-operative movement and the Liberal Party.
Keywords: tenant co-operators; housing co-operative; Benjamin Jones
Lampros Lamprinakis, pp. 16-30
Polanyi uses the term embeddedness to describe organisations that do not solely rely on market forces, but instead take into account social and cultural aspects, so that the economic, social, and cultural may become interlinked. The article makes the argument that co-operatives have the capacity potential for high degrees of embeddedness, and because of that characteristic, they may exhibit increased resilience in turbulent times. Two case studies are presented where historic co-operatives faced institutional and market challenges. First is the case of Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in Canada, where the co-operative undertakes a process of dis-embeddedness that ultimately leads to its demise. A different approach is presented in the second case, the case of Valio in Finland, where the co-operative becomes re-embedded and successfully adapts to market challenges. The article highlights how the unique nature of co-operatives allows for increased embeddedness and further contributes to the ongoing discussion on organisational change and adaptation.
Keywords: case study; Polanyi; embeddedness; organisational change
Jan Myers and John Maddocks, pp. 31-35
This short paper explores aspects of co-operative difference and co-operative advantage in the context of the 2008 ‘credit crunch’ and again as we face the social and economic pressure of COVID-19. Utilising the discourse surrounding the financial crisis, the paper looks at the questions raised about the continuing relevance of co-operative values and principles in creating effective and responsive organisations; the ‘natural’ place of co-operatives as inherently socially responsible and poses questions for possible areas of research to raise the profile of co-operative values in what some commentators are referring to as a ‘new economic age’ and the ‘new normal’.
Keywords: co-operative difference; co-operative advantage; Vales and Principles
Reviewed by Jan Myers, pp. 36-38
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