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Which community for cooperatives?

Peasant mobilizations, the Mafia, and the problem of community participation in Sicilian co-ops

Theodoros Rakopoulos

The literature on cooperatives often conceptualizes cooperativism as an organized effort to embrace community participation. Through the analysis of agrarian cooperatives in Sicily that were formally established to counter the Mafia and by ethnographically exploring the notion of community for cooperativism, this article aims to problematize this idea of cooperatives as “community economics”. It proposes an anthropological approach that critically analyzes divisions of labor and the internal factions' divergent concepts of “community”. In Sicily, workers in “anti-Mafia” co-ops recognize a sense of community and “way of life” in Mafia-influenced mobilizations outside the cooperative environment, contrary to the co-op administrators' legalistic views of community. The article illuminates how the fact that often co-op members draw on different ideas of community can lead to contradictions and tensions, especially as there are different social realities underlying those ideas.

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Egalitarianism and Community in danish housing Cooperatives

Proper Forms of Sharing and Being Together

Maja Hojer Bruun

The Danish concept of faellesskab (community) is explored in this article. Faellesskab covers different kinds of belonging and notions of proper togetherness in Danish society, ranging from neighborhood relations at the local level to membership in society at the national level. In investigating the ideals and practices of faellesskab in housing cooperatives, the article shows how people establish connections between these different scales of sociality. It argues that the way people live together in housing cooperatives, in a close atmosphere of egalitarian togetherness, is a cultural ideal in modern Denmark. The more recent commercialization of cooperative property has, however, caused concern. While some believe that faellesskab can still be practiced in the small enclaves of autonomous cooperatives, others fear that this ideal is threatened by economic inequalities.

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Inventing Eco-Cycle

A Social Enterprise Approach to Sustainability Education

Sandy Smith-Nonini

This article discusses lessons learned from a social enterprise project supporting sustainability education in central North Carolina (U.S.A.). Since 2011, Eco-Cycle,1 a retail shop featuring creative-reuse has provided support for a community meeting space that offers weekly environmental education workshops. Many approaches to social justice-oriented green initiatives in the United States emulate urban agriculture models and tend to be grant-dependent in early years, only achieving economic sustainability with difficulty. In contrast, our non-profit co-op of upcycler crafters and vintage vendors grew out of production and marketing of upcycled rain barrels, based on a social enterprise approach rather than a traditional model. I discuss the stepping-stones to this venture, which originated through a neighbourhood energy conservation initiative, followed by alliance-building with non-profits to promote green job creation. I relate the complications and surprising forms of synergism emerging from the social enterprise approach to social theory on cooperatives and community-based development models.

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David Davies

Murray Smith’s plea for a “cooperative naturalism” that adopts a “triangulational” approach to issues in film studies is both timely and well-defended. I raise three concerns, however: one is external, relating to this strategy’s limitations, and two are internal, relating to Smith’s application of the strategy. While triangulation seems appropriate when we ask about the nature of film experience, other philosophical questions about film have an ineliminable normative dimension that triangulation cannot address. Empirically informed philosophical reflection upon the arts must be “moderately pessimistic” in recognizing this fact. The internal concerns relate to Smith’s claims about the value and neurological basis of cinematic empathy. First, while empathy plays a central role in film experience, I argue that its neurological underpinnings fail to support the epistemic value he ascribes to it. Second, I question Smith’s reliance, in triangulating, upon the work of the Parma school on “mirror neurons.”

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Toward Comprehensive Conceptualizations of Contemporary Public Health

Participation as the Cornerstone of Appropriate Methodologies

Harry Nijhuis

This article explores the development of appropriate conceptualizations of public health, and, more importantly, adequate practices and methodologies to be applied in today’s societal context. Popular concepts like “positive health,” “comprehensive approaches,” and “participation” represent only specific components of larger complexities. My intention is to come up with useful notions for a more holistic comprehension of public health. First, two strands of reasoning, on which my argument is based, are discussed: (1) interpretations regarding major public health discourses of the past two centuries; (2) critical appraisal of influential societal tendencies (to be able to identify what today is “appropriate”). Then, based on these interpretations, notions are developed regarding ontological, epistemological, and societal aspects of public health. This leads us to the discussion of adequate methodologies for today’s practice of public health. I argue that emancipated participation of citizen communities—organized as cooperatives—ought to be a cornerstone in elaborations of contemporary public health.

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Dylan Bennett

The decline and dissolution of eastern Germany’s agricultural production

cooperatives (APCs) has been anticipated by formal economic theory since

reunification on the grounds of inefficiency.1 Yet, more recent scholarship

on the varieties of capitalism tells us that efficiency does not lead to simple

convergence of market forms, but rather that different institutional solutions

and social systems of production can achieve desired ends—including

efficiency—with varied designs.2 Today, the cooperative farm sector, underpinned

by conservative, democratic governance, persists without naiveté

and little nostalgia on the cusp of a new postcommunist generation and still

accounts for the largest share of agricultural production in eastern Germany.

Even if the cooperative farming sector follows a slow decline, the

firms will convert or persist depending less on their ability to achieve

efficiency as on their ability to maintain productive land holdings, and to

promote a new generation of management and enthusiastic members committed

not to nostalgia but toward the future of their own lives, their firms,

and their local communities. Some of the cooperatives are likely to persist

for a long time. In this article, in an effort to understand the environment

in which cooperatives face the future, I provide an eyewitness account of

the internal politics between workers and bosses, highlight survival strategies,

consider the institutional constraints and supports facing cooperatives,

and sketch portraits of the farmers who face the task of carrying the cooperative

tradition forward.

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Susan Wright, Davydd Greenwood and Rebecca Boden

We have been investigating universities in our own countries for many years and are now turning our attention to exploring alternatives to current reforms. As part of these investigations, we spent two days of interviews and meetings at Mondragón, a town in Gipúzkoa in the Spanish Basque Country.

Mondragón is at the centre of one of the largest groups of co-operatives in the world and in 1997 set up what is probably the only co-operative university in existence. This highly successful university has a solidary economy, effective methods of knowledge generation and transfer, and is expanding. Among its unique features are flat hierarchies and forms of self-management, community engagement and student participation built on an overall concept of the solidarity of the stakeholders.

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Mike Neary and Joss Winn

This report provides an interim account of a participatory action research project undertaken during 2015–16. The research brought together scholars, students and expert members of the co-operative movement to design a theoretically informed and practically grounded framework for co-operative higher education that activists, educators and the co-operative movement could take forward into implementation. Our dual roles in the research were as founding members of the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, an autonomous co-operative for higher education constituted in 2011 (Social Science Centre 2013), and as professional researchers working at the University of Lincoln. The immediate context for the research was, and remains, the ‘assault’ on universities in the U.K. (Bailey and Freedman 2011), the ‘gamble’ being taken with the future of higher education (McGettigan 2013), and the ‘pedagogy of debt’ (Williams 2006) that has been imposed through the removal of public funding of teaching and the concurrent tripling of tuition fees (Sutton Trust 2016).

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Recovered enterprises from the South to the North

Reclaiming labor, conflict, and mutualism in Italy

Giovanni Orlando

Since the global crisis of 2008, Italy has witnessed several recoveries of failed private enterprises led by workers trying to escape the precarization of life under austerity. Some see this phenomenon as linked to the highly politicized occupations that took place in Argentina during the crisis of 2001. Italian recoveries, however, are usually far less controversial affairs carried out under the aegis of the state. What explains this difference? Looking at exceptions within the Italian case provides some answers. For example, a protracted conflict between workers (labor) and ownership (capital), the building of links with transnational struggles (including the Argentinian one), and the rediscovery of past working-class values such as mutualism all appear to be factors that can generate collective responses to austerity.

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Cooperative Antagonism in Development Research

A Perspective From Bangladesh

Manzurul Mannan

Development research in Bangladesh creates friction in projects among various stakeholders—donors, NGOs, managers, researchers or the poor beneficiaries. Research is an element of power relations among the contending actors. The mutually reinforcing relations of power between different actors determine the quality and outcomes of research. All the contending actors' aims may be to serve the poor by promoting development in order to alleviate poverty, but cooperation between them becomes a source of antagonism that can seriously hamper the promotion of local knowledge issues, which become lost in the ensuing differences of opinion and aims.