Cooperatism – an ideology of the economically organized democracy. History and timeliness

Lecture by Bartłomiej Błesznowski

The subject of the efforts of the emancipation movements of the nineteenth and twentieth century was primarily the material situation of the people – on the one hand, it was about the ownership of the means of production, on the other hand, the facilitation of consumption of the most-needed goods and services. The democratic organization of creativeness and self-management of one’s own consumer choices were, in fact, political demands, becoming the basic differentiator of the cooperative ethos. The progenitors of the cooperative movement in the form of utopian socialist as well as the first ideologists of cooperatism, such as the French economist Charles Gide or the Polish socialist and philosopher Edward Abramowski, believed that a righteous way to meet basic human needs leads through cooperation and mutual assistance.

Cooperatism is the result of a modern dream of a rational social world typical of the era. In this sense, it forms part of the great ideologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at the same time not limiting itself to the assumptions of any of them. By moving through on the periphery of influential political narratives, whilst referring their message to the universal ideal of brotherhood and the universality of the experience of cooperation, it was a kind of “lesser ideology” – the universal culture of the common penetrating history. Perhaps, treating cooperatism as a historical phenomenon, we can also find in it still alive and current elements – a remedy for the exhausting formula of the liberal parliamentarism and the crisis of post-Fordist capitalism, and even the way of anticipating the upcoming forms of community life.

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