Table of Contents

Peer reviewed articles

Functional barriers to workers’ co-operatives in getting off the ground: Synthesis of a failed case in India.

Santanu Sarkar and Abhijit Ghosh, pp. 6-18.

In this paper the authors examine the deficiencies, challenges, and eventual failure of an attempt by a group of separated miners1, in response to the company’s decision to shut down the quarry, to reopen a closed mine by establishing a co-operative. The study, carried out in eastern India during 2009-10 assesses the functional barriers to establishing the workers’ co-operative. Evaluation of the case reveals several deficiencies in its plan, the major ones being: the relationship of the co-operative’s members with the means of production and allocative efficiency, failure to generate interests among separated executives towards working for the interest of the co-operative, failure to manage distribution relations and finally the members’ poor grasp of the financial feasibility and fiscal compatibility of the overall operations. The company, being a large central public sector establishment, over protected by the government’s policies was also incapable of leveraging the opportunities created. All these factors led to some adverse implications insofar as the functioning of the co-operative is concerned. The authors allude to the tensions in such situations between the craving and imaginings of workers for something better and more humane than capitalism can provide in terms of management, employment conditions and work organisation, and their pragmatic concern to provide continuing employment when faced with closure. A focus on the issues of potential obstacles for members of co-operatives is of interest in the contexts of India and other developing economies, as well as in rather different contexts of developed economies.

Sarkar & Ghosh, 2014

Is the Mondragón Co-operative experience a cultural exception? The application of the Mondragón model in Valencia and beyond

Spencer P Thompson, pp. 19-33.

It has frequently been presumed that the ability of the Mondragón group of co-operatives to achieve a remarkable degree of trust and loyalty amongst its members while maintaining relatively bureaucratic workplaces is due to the uniquely solidaristic traits of Basque culture, implying that the same feat will be unattainable amidst less favourable cultural milieus. This article argues that, on the contrary, Mondragón’s organisational culture is embedded in its organisational structures — such as its systems of governance, education, ownership, remuneration, and inter-co-operation — and should therefore be widely applicable, even if not identically replicable, in other regions. To this effect, the article provides evidence that the key features of ‘the Mondragón Model’ have indeed been emulated elsewhere — namely in Valencia and the United States — and moreover has significant parallels around the world.

Thompson, 2014.

Satisfaction towards management as a means to influence customer satisfaction – The case of a South African farmer-controlled business

Liezel Alsemgeest, pp. 34-44.

The article is based on the premise that there are a variety of factors contributing towards customer satisfaction, namely price, product, service and personnel. It also argues that management plays a significant role in agribusinesses/farmer-controlled businesses (FCBs) where the farmer is both a customer and shareholder. The results indicate that management indeed has a significant influence on customer satisfaction with the company and that it is possible to identify drivers inherent in the business units of a FCB that impact overall customer satisfaction directly. Agency theory plays an important role in FCBs, and therefore satisfaction towards management should be included in customer satisfaction measures for FCBs. The study made a contribution to theory, as well as to practice by shining light on very important aspects of customer satisfaction (management) in a FCB, which will assist in gaining knowledge on this unique business-form and the management thereof.

Alsemgeest, 2014.

Short papers

The forward march of co-operation halted?

Nick Matthews, pp. 45-49.

Anyone familiar with recent labour history in the UK will be aware of the seminal essay by Eric Hobsbawn, The Forward March of Labour Halted, the 1978 Marx Memorial Lecture. In it he attempted to outline the economic, social and political changes that were taking place in society that meant that the idea that the left had a monopoly on the future was open to question. In this essay the author attempts to do something similar for the UK retail co-operative movement. It highlights the fact that for co-operatives to succeed at scale the need effective co-operative managers and member representatives and links the crisis at the Co-operative Bank and the Co-operative Group to a failure of co-operative education.

Matthews, 2014.

Producer organisations – the way forward?

Jane Eastham, pp. 50-54.

The extension of the producer organisation (PO) regime to all agricultural sectors is another milestone in the EU Agricultural policy designed to encourage the development of collective action to promote competitiveness and improve farm returns. This paper, through the lens of power dependency theories suggests that in any supply tier, additional players may not serve the interests of those for whom it is intended. In markets serving highly concentrated and consolidated downstream buyers, the introduction and continued presence of the PO can result in a negative yardstick effect and thereby have a deflationary effect on farm gate prices.

Eastham, 2014

Book reviews

William Hazell’s gleaming vision: A co-operative life in South Wales 1890-1964.  By Alun Burge. 

Reviewed by Stephen Yeo, pp. 55-58.

Yeo, 2014.

Capital and the debt trap: Learning from cooperatives in the global Crisis. By C. Sanchez Bajo and B. Roelants. 

Reviewed by Frédéric Dufays. 

Dufays, 2014.
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