Table of Contents


Peer reviewed articles

Tenant Co-operators Ltd. and the 'productive problem'

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

Co-operatives as naturally embedded organisations and the implications for resilience 

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

Short papers

Do values and principles make a difference in times of crisis

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

Book reviews

Warsaw Housing Co-operative: City in action. By Magdalena Matysek-Imielińska (Trans. Monika Fryszkowska).

Reviewed by Jan Myers, pp. 36-38

Creative Commons License
All works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, subject to a 6-month embargo from date of publication in the Journal

UK Society for Co-operative Studies is registered in England and Wales as a charitable incorporated organisation Number 1175295. Our registered office is Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS.
Log in | Powered by White Fuse