The Political Economy of Cooperative Firms: Historical and Comparative Perspectives

Project: Other

Project Details


Cooperative firms are a successful organisational form in a number of countries and economic sectors. Recent figures report that the total turnover of the top 300 cooperatives worldwide exceeded US$ 2.1 trillion in 2015 and that cooperatives account for 12% of total employment in G20 countries. These are not negligible figures. However, commonplace conceptions, largely promoted by economists since the late 1950s, see cooperatives as marginal and inefficient business structures, with limited survival prospects in capitalist environments. This research aims to show that this argument does not necessarily hold once the conditions prevailing in the socio-economic context in which cooperatives operate are considered. While a body of empirical studies support the International Cooperative Alliance’s recognition that societal aspects are correlated with a robust cooperative economy, a sound conceptual framework, able to elucidate why cooperatives flourish in certain contexts but not in others and thereby guide empirical research, is currently lacking. The project develops an interdisciplinary historical and comparative perspective on the political economy of cooperative firms, with inputs drawn from institutional economics, political science and economic sociology. The concept of institutional complementarity provides the backbone of the analytical framework which is used to evaluate the evidence gathered from three country-based case studies of the evolution of the cooperative sector, chosen to represent the variety of capitalist regimes: the United Kingdom, a liberal market economy; the Netherlands, a coordinated market economy; and Italy, a Mediterranean type of capitalism. The findings will provide valuable insights to policy makers and cooperative sector organisations, but also to scholars working on alternative organisational forms and those involved in curriculum design.
Effective start/end date1/10/1831/07/19


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