Cooperatives are a main means of organization for economic activity, generally operating on principles of equal membership and members’ democratic control of their means of livelihood. Co-ops have developed as modern institutions aiming to tackle problems created by contemporary capitalism and its associated dependency on wage work. Co-ops operate and interact in context, mobilising ways of human contact that anthropologists usually study (kinship, community, ethnicity, and local belief systems). Anthropologists have expressed interest in co-ops since the origins of their discipline. They tend to investigate the ways that members interact within co-op organizations, as well as the ways co-ops interact with and within broader social frameworks. Key issues arising in understanding cooperatives are how co-ops negotiate industrial democracy, how they respond to market influences, and how they interrelate with broader civil society and social movements. Anthropological critiques of cooperatives distinguish between cooperative ideology and praxis, and highlight cases where institutional cooperation does not work in favour of local communities. However, anthropologists have equally celebrated cooperatives as institutional forms that shield communities off from exploitation and promote social solidarity.
This item's license is: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International