Book Reviews (Review of International Co-operation, Vol 90, No.1/1997)

New Delhi, 20 May, 1997
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This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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April, 1997
(Source: ICA Review, Vol.90 No.1, 1997, pp.79-82)


BOOK REVIEWS
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Human  Resource  Development in Co-operatives 
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by Dr. Dharm Vir,  Focus on Education and Training in Asia-Pacific, ICA
DOMUS TRUST, New Delhi, 1996, 160 pp. ISBN 92-9054-100-8
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The book discusses the concept of Human Resource Development in the
context of co-operatives and briefly describes the emerging concept of Co
operative Human Resource Development. In order to give a broad picture of
co-operative education and training activities in different countries, the Asia
Pacific Region has been divided into six sub-regions. The book gives
conclusions and suggestions for the improvement of co-operative human 
resource development through educational means.
 
The book offers two special studies, one dealing with the agricultural sector
and the second with consumer co-ops. Both studies provide special
information on education and training activities in national and international
perspectives. The book will prove very useful to co-operative development
planners, researchers, consultants, administrators and practitioners in co
operative development. It will be useful for co-operative leaders, educators,
donors and other international agencies as well as to teachers and senior
students.

Dr. Dharm Vir has a lifelong experience in adult education and has
published several books on the co-operative training.

-Alina Pawlowska


Building a Community-Controlled Economy
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Paul Wilkinson and Jack Quarter  -  The Evangeline Co-operative
Experience, University of Toronto Press, 1996, 186 pp, Index, ISBN : 0
8020-0873-9 (cloth)
0-8020-7857-5 (paper)
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This case study focuses on and analyses the formation of four co-operatives
in the Evangeline region, a small Acadian community in the southwest part
of Prince Edward Island, Canada. 

Excerpt from Chapt. 1, page 3, follows:

In April 1990, fifty-one years after the incorporation of their first co
operative store, eight hundred people from the Evangeline region of Prince
Edward Island turned out in minus twenty degree weather to celebrate the
opening of their new supermarket. The speaker for the occasion, Reverend
Eloi Arsenault, stressed the significant role that co-operatives have played in
the life of Evangeline people: 'Co-operatives have been the key to the social
and economic development of the community.' Indeed this twenty-square
kilometre area, with only twenty-five hundred residents, has been called
'the uncontested co-operative capital of North America.' Its sixteen co-
operatives are a social infrastructure for the community providing its most
basic services from the cradle to the grave.

Defined by the authors as an 'integrated community-controlled economy,'
the Evangeline community demonstrates the potential that a network of
interrelated co-operatives has for community economic development. More
specifically, the authors discuss why some co-operatives succeed while
others fail, and propose a model that outlines the element necessary for any
comprehensive community economic-development process.

Wilkinson and Quarter look at the Evangeline experiment in the context of
two seemingly contradictory trends today: globalization and
decentralization. They argue that the initiatives undertaken by the Evangeline
community fit within the trend toward decentralization and community
control. The citizens of the Evangeline region have formed a community
controlled economy, refusing to accept the conventional wisdom  that a
small community is not viable in a modern economy. The authors suggest
that the Evangeline experiment shows that communities which are being
marginalized in the modern world can take matters into their own hands and
succeed where externally driven development has failed.

Paul Wilkinson is Community Outreach Manager with the Department of
Social Services, Saskatoon Region. Jack Quarter is a Professor at the
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and author of "Canada's Social
Economy" and "Crossing the Line". He edited "How to Start a Worker's
Co-op" and coedited "Partners in Enterprise: The Worker Ownership
Phenomenon".

- AP


The German Co-operative System 
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by Dr. Gunther Aschoff, Eckart Henningsen Its History, Structure and
Strength, Fritz Knapp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1996, 228pp. ISBN : 3
7819-0579-9
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Although there is an abundant and diverse literature on the special aspects of
German co-operative practice and related topics, a concise overall
description of the origins and historical development of the co-operative
system in the Federal Republic of Germany, on the one hand, and the
present structure and strength of its individual sectors, on the other, has so
far been lacking. 

This gap was closed for West Germany in 1985 with the first edition of
"German Co-operative System - Its History, Structure and Strength". This
second, fully revised and extended edition provides the first comprehensive
portrayal of the co-operative system since the country's reunification.

The authors describe the development of the German co-operative system
since the beginning and profile their present structure and strength, in
particular that of the co-operative banks, the agricultural and non-
agricultural co-operatives, the consumer co-operatives and the housing co-
operatives. The authors also outline the essential features of co-operative
enterprises as well as their activities in the fields of professional training,
their legal status and the international co-operation between co-operative
organisations. The concluding chapter reflects upon the future of the co
operatives.

Dr. Gunther Aschloff served as Chief Economist at DG Bank, Germany
from 1970 to 1994. Author of numerous publications on co-operative and
general economic subjects.

Eckart Henningsen has been working with DG Bank, Economics division
since 1976. Co-author of several publications on the German Co-operative
system.

- AP

Co-operative Identity Concepts and Reality 
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by Dr. R.C. Dwivedi, Triveni Enterprises, New Delhi, 1997, 103 pp.
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Homage to Passion
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Imagine a country with 160 million strong co-operatives, present in all
areas: from highly sophisticated fertilisers-making societies to tiny tribal
wild plant collectors. And in the middle there are credit societies to lend
money to peasants, workers co-ops providing income to women, housing
societies to lodge government officers etc... They exist, do operate but are
missing the soul - the co-operative identity - that which makes the co-op
different from commercial enterprises.
 
Dr. Dwivedi's new book will certainly mark a point in the discussion on the
future of the co-operative movement in India.
 
After a detailed description of the origins of co-operatives the author passes
to the Indian reality, for which he reserves strong criticism.

"Today there are co-operatives of all status, excellent and good but there is
no movement as such...The passion has completely subsided" (p.100).

In 1904 the British gave a distinct co-operative law to India to enable the
formation of agricultural credit societies in villages. It was intended as a
measure of relief to the farmers against moneylenders. 

After independence, the role changed and co-operatives became, in line with
political ideas of that time, a privileged tool for economic development.
India was to transform into a "Co-operative Commonwealth" and co-
operation should became "the way of thinking of the people". The village
co-operative, together with panchayat council and the school, was a pillar of
democracy at grassroots level. The government emphasized the importance
of the sector by including it in the successive five-year plans. Thanks to
financial advantages and technical assistance the number of primary
societies has grown rapidly, education has been extended, and vertical
structures have been built. 

The 1960s saw a change of regime with frightening economic problems
ahead for co-operative trading and ideals. In the  1990s the deterioration of
the social fabric affected the co- operatives which progressively lost their
identity. Much of Dr. Dwivedi's criticism is valid. The government and the
co-operative leaders made plenty of mistakes.

Hence, are the fundamental questions confronting the movement today any
different from those of yesteryear? Or are the solutions today more
agonising?   Dr. Dwivedi recommends several measures to improve
management in the co-operative sector. 

A structural reform should be imposed with co-operative values underlying
the reform process. The changes proposed go from evident administrative
actions like clearing co-op registers from dead societies or prohibiting the
competition between federations and primary societies. But they tend also to
modify practices - he advocates, for instance, the creation of the post of
Ombudsman who would investigate malpractice within the societies. There
should be appropriate arrangements for the effective organisation and
operation of local co-ops.

The book does not have claim to give a universal recipe on how to heal all
disorders affecting the co-operatives in India, but if it stimulates the reader
to reflect on the problems,  he will understand why it was worth writing
about them.  
- AP