Co-operatives and Capitalism

A friend commented that this blog is anti-capitalist. I can understand this perception, but want to prove that co-ops are not anti-capitalist. It should be noted that co-ops are, generally speaking, profit generating enterprises. What is unique about them is sharing wealth. As Stacey Cordeiro from the Boston Center for Community Ownership phrases it, co-ops subordinate capital.

Here is capitalism defined by Wikipedia: an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the goal of making profits in a market economy.

Thought has been given to co-ops functioning within capitalism. Going back to 2011, author and economist Noreena Hertz wrote a report called Co-op Capitalism. Written as a response to what she terms as “Gucci Capitalism” marked by an unregulated period of greed, the report outlines co-ops as a solution. She describes four benefits of co-ops: community preservation; quality and power of relationships affecting performance; the economic and social connection; and the value of sharing resources with collaboration.

It might seem counter-productive to start an enterprise that distributes wealth. Co-ops can also be challenging to manage with broad input on decision-making. But the benefits Hertz describes can create practical sustainability. In response to skeptics, Hertz presents co-ops as thriving businesses and points out major co-op enterprises in Switzerland, Italy, the UK, and Africa. And given the health of worldwide co-operatives today, their impact has only increased since this report was written. See the ICA’s reporting on co-ops worldwide: The World Co-operative Monitor Project.

Maybe it’s the definition of capitalism that is to be redefined by co-ops. I still like the concept of a generative economy coined by Marjorie Kelly. Maybe generative capitalism sums up what is transformative about co-ops.


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