Social Aspects of Industry: A Survey of Labor Problems and Causes of Industrial Unrest

By S. Howard Patterson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT

THE ELIMINATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL ENTERPRISER

1. Aims of the Cooperative Movement. -- Works councils and profit sharing merely propose the copartnership concept of labor and the employer. The cooperative movement, however, would dispense altogether with the business enterpriser. A given business would be run not by a single individual but cooperatively, that is, by a representative committee of the workers or of the consumers. In the absence of the enterpriser, private profits would be eliminated or rather divided among the workers or the consumers according to some previously arranged plan. Indeed, it may be said that the prime object of any truly cooperative movement is mutual benefit rather than profits. It represents collective rather than individual enterprise in the production and distribution of economic goods.

The immediate aim of the cooperative movement is the reduction of the economic wastes of our competitive system and the elimination of middlemen and individual employers. The ultimate aim of some thinkers is the evolution of a cooperative commonwealth. Although such an aim may be revolutionary, the methods of attainment are peaceful. Moreover, the process is viewed as a gradual one.

State socialism is political and is superimposed from above. The cooperative movement is economic rather than political; moreover, it is a group rather than a national experiment. Cooperative associations grow up within a given economic society without destroying it. They can demonstrate their merit or lack of merit in competition with the present competitive and individualistic system. Indeed, a cooperative association has been regarded as socialism within the test tube. The status of private property rights, however, is different under the two systems. The cooperative movement recognizes not only the importance of capital but also the existence of private property rights in capital and other forms of wealth.

2. Types of Cooperation. -- The cooperative movement has expressed itself in three chief types: (1) consumers' cooperation, (2) producers' cooperation, and (3) cooperative credit institutions. Consumers' cooperation is represented by cooperative stores in which the purchasers share the profits of their cooperative venture. Producers' cooperation

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