Analysis of the Agricultural Cooperative Movement in Greece
* Thesis: (Agro)topia? A Critical Analysis of the Agricultural Cooperative Movement in Greece. By Kokkinidis, George. University of Leicester, 2011
"Agricultural cooperatives operate within capitalism but they differ from private organisations in both structure and aims in that control and ownership are in the hands of those doing the work. While cooperatives are often viewed as too small to confront capitalism and thus deemed to fail, or too similar to capitalist organisations, this thesis argues that cooperatives can be seen as a viable alternative. Specifically this thesis focuses on the agricultural cooperative movement in Greece and historically investigates the role of Greek agricultural cooperatives in constituting an alternative form of organization. On the basis of a series of semi-structured interviews and casual conversations with Greek farmers, this thesis aims to contribute to the existing body of literature on cooperativism by bringing forth the perspective of the farmer-members. After reviewing the literature on cooperatives, the thesis examines the structure and activities of Greek agricultural cooperatives. The key themes of the empirical analysis turn around the credit-intermediary role of the Greek agricultural cooperatives, the political affiliation of the cooperatives, their bureaucratic and relatively undemocratic structure, and the relationship between the current structure and activities of the agricultural cooperatives in Greece on the one hand, and members’ commitment and attitude towards cooperative action on the other hand. In the final part, this thesis argues that agricultural cooperatives in Greece have to undertake a radical re-structuring that would create the grounds for the end to their political party affiliation and for greater autonomy. It also argues for the need to invent new forms of popular participation whereby cooperatives would be under the direct influence and control of the members. Finally, this thesis argues that Greek agricultural cooperatives should expand their activities to every stage of the production process. This could create the conditions for strengthening cooperation and interaction between the farmer-members, thus fostering a stronger sense of community and cooperative consciousness."