Open Cooperativism Reading List

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Compiled by Michel Bauwens and David Bollier with advice from Pat Conaty et al.:

Key Readings

The Main Topic

This contains the key proposition for this meeting, i.e. discussing the need and potential for a convergence between the production of commons and cooperativism.

This is a more expanded version of the arguments in the previous editorial. It aims to show why open co-operativism is a crucial part of any transition strategy aimed at keeping surplus value within the sphere of the cooperative commons and how a process of ‘cooperative accumulation’ can counter the effects of capital accumulation.

This article explores how a new type of reciprocity-based license could be a key tool to create the new type of open cooperatives

  • Commons and Cooperatives. Greig de Peuter and Nick Dyer-Witheford. Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action, Vol 4, No 1 (2010). Special issue on The New Cooperativism.

What is the relation between the commons and cooperatives?

Significant Current Trends

  • Phyles: Economic Democracy in the Network Century. by David de Ugarte

URL = (Economic Democracy in the Network Century)

Introduces the concept of phyles, global cooperative eco-systems to sustain the commons and their contributory communities.

The concept of phyles is explained here at Phyles

1. Pat Conaty on the importance of social co-operatives and solidarity co-operatives.

2. Solidarity Co-operatives (Quebec, Canada). How Social Enterprises can Combine Social and Economic Goals. By Jean-Pierre Girard, Geneviève Langlois. OECD, 2009


(Chapter from the book: The Changing Boundaries of Social Enterprises, )

A collection of documents is maintained by Josef Davies-Coates at

Significant Current Examples

Additional Readings

  • Henry Tam: ‘Cooperation Denial’ (on why cooperation has been rejected by many in power and what needs to be done to counter them):

  • Special Issue: Affinities Journal, Vol 4, No 1 (2010): The New Cooperativism


"Cooperative practices and values that challenge the status quo while, at the same time, creating alternative modes of economic, cultural, social, and political life have emerged with dynamism in recent years. The 15 articles in this issue--written by activists, coop practitioners, theorists, historians, and researchers--begin to make visible some of the myriad modes of cooperation existing today around the world that both directly respond to new enclosures and crises and show pathways beyond them. Prefiguring other possibilities for organizing life and provisioning for our needs and desires, we call these cooperative experiments the new cooperativism."

  • Article: Social Centres and the New Cooperativism of the Common, Andre Pusey. Affinities Journal, Vol 4, No 1 (2010)


"In recent years a network of self-managed social centres has been spreading across the UK and further afield. They take their inspiration from an array of previous experiments in autonomous space, including the centri sociali in Italy and the Autonome squats of Germany and the Netherlands. This article looks at several examples of social centres, based on interviews and online responses with participants, as well as the author’s own involvement in social centres. At the heart of these spaces are principles of autonomy and collective struggle. This article argues that they represent examples of the production of “new commons,” and as such are an important demonstration of self-management and the “new cooperativism” in practice."

  • Report: Co-operation in the Age of Google. By Robin Murray. Co-operatives UK, 2010


"What is the way forward for the co-operative sector? Commissioned by Co-operatives UK, Robin Murray – a co-operative innovator and key thinker behind Fairtrade, Twin Trading and much more besides – has produced a radical vision of the how the co-operative sector can expand in the 21st Century.”

Robin Murray writes:

“Looking again at this text, it treats co-ops not as an abstraction but as they have become (and are becoming) at this particular juncture, primarily in nervation to the UK and what UK co-operators can do about it, but with reference to where co-operatives from elsewhere have charted successful ways through the problems faced by the UK co-=ops.

The first section 's argument is that we are moving to an era where the economic winds are bl,owing jun favour of co-ops, if they can get up their sails to catch these winds. The second is how co-operative expansion comes about, and new co-ops are generated ~(Chapter VII is on informal co-operation and some of its generative instruments). Section 3 is about the co-operative system, and chapters XI to XIV (pp 65-91 might contribute to the discussion, concerned as they are with the nature of a generative co-operative system). The remainder of the document fills in some of the items highlighted in this particular section.”

  • The New Wave of Mutuality. By ROBIN MURRAY. Policy Network, 2012.


"Cooperatives and mutuality are once again becoming a major source of social innovation. A reaction to a corporate economy driven by a short term profit imperative at the expense of their social and environmental impact; in the face of the recent financial crisis social movements have sprung up that sought forms of enterprise that internalise these issues rather than treating them as mere externalities. They have sparked an emerging civil economy. In this new Policy Network paper Robin Murray shows how co-operative societies can help overcome the environmental, social, and economic problems that neither the private market nor the state have been able to find adequately answers.

Challenging the view that co-operatives and the state are mutually antagonistic, The New Wave Of Mutuality: Social Innovation And Public Service Reform highlights the many lessons of successful co-operation that could be adopted within the public sphere:

· To involve those who receive a service and those who supply it in the design and operation of the service;

· To provide freedom for the co-op beyond the regulatory framework that binds public services;

· To ensure financial autonomy to the co-op which allows it to insulate its work from the impact of centrally organised cut backs and accumulate funds to finance its own growth and innovation.

Moving beyond the model of the private market and the state as the two commanding spheres of the economy, Murray thus shows that the cooperative movement is a rich source of experience. Experience that is particularly relevant today in relation to the major emerging issues of our age."

Optional Extra Readings

  • Marx, Marxism and the Cooperative Movement. Bruno Jossa. Cambridge Journal of Economics 2005, 29, 3–18

URL = "This paper has a dual aim: first, to draw attention to a number of passages in which Marx explicitly extolled the cooperative movement and thereby confute the wrong but widely held assumption that Marx was inimical to the market and rejected cooperation as a production mode even for the transition period."

  • Jon Walker VSM a Guide for Co Operatives and Federations ,


Recommended by Pat Conaty: the Jon Walker analysis of UK food co-ops though produced in the 1990s is very good as it connects the VSM to practical problem solving.

  • The City-CLT Partnership: Municipal Support for Community Land Trusts

John Emmeus Davis and Rick Jacobus.


The City-CLT Partnership identifies local policies that support community land trust development. (recommended by Pat Conaty)

  • The Politics of Money (2002) by Frances Hutchinson, Mary Mellor and Wendy Olsen

Recommended: chapter 4

Pat Conaty writes:

“I really recommend The Politics of Money (2002) by Frances Hutchinson, Mary Mellor and Wendy Olsen. The sub-title is Towards Sustainability and Economic Democracy and the three of them have done a superb job of developing a framework for linking up the Commons and a co-operative economy within a paradigm of provisioning.

I could see if Frances might be able to let us have one of the chapters as a reading list one. Chapter 4 is called Capitalism - The Elimination of Alternatives and it shows so powerfully how enclosed property rights have set up an invisible radical monopoly. It prepares the ground well for the Money as a Commons paper by Herman Daly in my list. They manage to link up theories of money and institutional architecture that aligns for the first time I think: Daly, Veblen, Marx, Gesell and CH Douglas. But it is the commons thinking that is also so unique in how they approach what they call the means of sustenance and how they distinguish this from the means of production.

The Hutchinson, Mellor and Olsen book in 2002 complements so well Michael Hudson's comprehensive critique of global finance in 2012. He analyses the problems in so much depth but they provide in equally savvy ways, the key solutions and indeed a decade ahead of him and well ahead of 2008!

Frances, Mary and Wendy as a powerful team offer practical insights at their finest of green feminist socialist and co-operative economic development thinking and all so well integrated. “

Their framework is on the means of sustenance and not the means of production. They show where the wrong turning was made in the 1920s when radical guild socialism (that did not ghettoize unpaid good work) was shortchanged by the rise of Fabian Labourism, a fatal compromise, that only looked at market work.

Further Individual Recommendations

Annemarie Naylor on Cooperative Asset Ownership

“As you know, I wear x2 hats – one for traditional land and buildings (Associate Director, Community Assets – Locality) and one for digital assets/enterprise (Director, Common Futures).

There isn’t much, save my blog, about the latter because I’m literally preparing to write up the Our Digital Community programme this coming month as per the Digital Merthyr project report. As such, Common Futures isn’t so much a movement as an ‘idea’ about how to bring purveyors of traditional community asset/enterprise development closer to the unfolding digital landscape. But, it’s summed up in

We got into the sharing economy / collaborative consumption with:

Common Libraries – and

There is a more established suite of documentation associated with traditional community asset/enterprise development available via Locality -

Finally, I’m incredibly sceptical about: but it provides an interesting ‘overview’ from an outsider perspective re community asset acquisition, development and management… “