The Hidden Alternative

Co-operative Values, Past, Present and Future

image of The Hidden Alternative
In light of the recent global economic recession, this publication seeks to challenge the hegemony of the investor led business model in economics and business studies, and needs to be promoted in relation to these debates. The contributions to this book demonstrate that co-operation offers a real and much needed alternative for the organisation of human economic and social affairs, one that should establish its place at the forefront of public and academic discussion and policy making. It includes chapters on education, fair trade, politics and governance, planning, and sustainability and on how co-operatives have coped with the global economic crisis.



An alternative co-operative tradition: The Basque co-operatives of Mondragón

If the co-operative movement constitutes a ‘hidden alternative’ to ruling economic orthodoxies, some of the traditions that contribute to its distinctive profile remain even less visible to the external gaze, especially co-operative enterprises that fall outside the dominant orthodoxy of the ‘Rochdale tradition’. The economically successful complex of co-operative activities based on the small Basque town of Mondragón, in northern Spain, is an example. From humble origins in 1955, the Mondragón enterprises have extended from manufacturing and education into banking, credit, finance and retailing. In 2009 they employed over 100,000 members, accounting for 8.1% of industrial employment in the Basque Country, while running their own university and allocating considerable funding to various community schemes. 80% of the group’s industrial workers on its home territory are members of their co-operative under the umbrella of the group, although if recent geographical expansion is taken into account the percentage falls sharply to 45%. It is criticised for not extending its worker-membership policies to new countries, or to its retail operations, and for allegedly behaving like just another multinational beyond its Basque heartland. Mondragón now has factories in eighteen other countries (and a presence in over 40), on five continents.


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