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Otros Oferta

Common Interests

I have a hypothesis. It’s just a hypothesis, but it seems to show promise. I’ve tried to research it, but the terms are so common that it’s hard to isolate my idea.

It goes like this: the Rochdale Pioneers emerged in England specifically because England was where the commons were most thoroughly enclosed.

I don’t mean that co-ops were a conscious attempt to rebuild the commons. In these early stages of my research, there’s nothing to indicate that. Rather, I mean that there seems to be an instinct for self-organization that emerges in people, given half a chance.

For example, there’s a striking similarity between the eight Principles for Managing a Commons, as laid out by Elinor Ostrom, and the seven Cooperative Principles, originally written by the Rochdale Pioneers, and updated over the years by co-op associations. Below, I’ve lined them up together. Even the order is consistent between them.

Commons Principles Cooperative Principles
1. Define clear group boundaries. 1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions. 2. Democratic Member Control
3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules. 3. Member Economic Participation
4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities. 4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior. 5. Education, Training, and Information
6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators. 6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution. 7. Concern for Community
8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

Clearly, cooperatives and commons have a lot, well, in common. Their visions of a sustainable, shared, grassroots economy differ only on a few particulars (like legal structure). So, why do commons activists have only a nominal interest in the co-op movement, which, in turn, shows even less interest in the commons?

It’s hard to be sure, but I can think of several possibilities. Co-ops are not well understood by most people in modern industrial society. Corporations have run the media (and, some might argue, the government) for generations, and have defined themselves as the norm for economic organizing. The general public sees co-ops either as little grocery stores that are more of a hobby than a business, or giant agricultural businesses whose cooperative nature is an afterthought, if it’s a thought at all.

And the commons has it even worse. After the enclosures of the English commons in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a deliberate effort by the aristocracy to exterminate even the memory of the commons. They couldn’t get rid of the words around it entirely, but they could start to redefine them. Hence, “common people” and “commoners” came to mean “ordinary, lower-class people” or “peasantry,” not “people of the commons.”

But the commons re-emerged under a new name. They were smaller and more limited in scope, with more detailed accounting and documentation, and they became active participants in the market economy. There’s no indication that early members of the modern cooperative movement viewed their co-ops as the commons reborn—indeed, they might well have denied it—but as we’ve seen, the purposes and practices show a strong continuity. I suspect this isn’t a coincidence, but either way, the patterns of socially and ecologically sustainable economics are now well established and, by definition, available to all.

Libros, Películas y Música Oferta

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