Book Review: "The Nature of Cooperation" by John Craig

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         June 1994

                       Book Reviews

                  The Nature of Co-operation

by John G. Craig, Published by Black Rose Books, Montreal,
250pp. reviewed by S.K. Saxena

In about 250 pages, John Craig has covered in this book an
amazing range of subjects. It provides an overview of how
co-operatives function and traces their evolution; it
explains, as well, why co-operatives have been spectacularly
successful in some parts of the world while failing dismally
in others. The eight chapters deal with the roots and
evolution of Co-operation, the international spread of the
movement, comprehensive co-operatives, the situation in
developing countries, co-operatives which lack co-operative
content, social inequality, gender, race and class and,
finally, a chapter is included on the empowerment of women in
consumer co-operatives in Japan. The book approaches the
subject from a sociological point of view; economic analysis
is kept to a minimum.

Chapter two is devoted to a discussion of the roots and
evolution of the movement. Reference is made to Co-operative
Values. These are very much under discussion now and the last
Congress of the ICA in Tokyo was devoted to the subject.
Co-operation in its generic and specific senses is
interpreted. This subject has received scant attention in
co-operative literature. The basic philosophies and ideologies
underlying the movement - Co-operative Commonwealth,
Co-operative Sector, Co-operative Socialism, Modified
Capitalism, New-age Co-operation- are briefly discussed and
the teachings of early thinkers - Robert Owen, Christian
Socialists, Charles Fourier, Michel Derrion, Dr William King -
are discussed. This part overarches the relationship between
economic and sociological thinking and the co-operative

Chapter three discusses the growth and state of the movement
in industrialised countries. Short historical accounts are
followed by descriptions of co-operatives in North America and
Europe - service, agricultural, consumer and workers'
production - and statistics are cited to show their presence.
With the creation of the EEC, co-operatives face new
challenges and provide an excellent opportunity for practising
the principle of inter-co-operative collaboration, not the
least, to counter the multinationals' operations.

Under the title "Comprehensive Co-operatives", Craig
concentrates on workers' production co-operatives. Cases are
cited from Israel, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and India.
This is an increasingly important branch of the movement,
partly for its employment potential. The subject has been
dogged by some definitional unclarities and a forthcoming
international Conference on the subject sponsored by CICOPA,
an ICA Specialised Organisation, will, it is hoped, bring into
focus the latest researches on the subject and relate them to
the wider issue of participatory democracy in industry. The
roles of workers and employers tend to get confused. There are
also some problems of classification; should co-operative
sugar factories be regarded as part of the workers` production
group or the agricultural processing sector? In any case,
these co-operatives are gaining increased importance. They
have been traditionally strong in the Mediterranean countries
- SCOP affiliates in France and Mondragon in Spain are two
examples - but they are now at a take-off point even in
Scandinavian countries.

For the reviewer, Chapter five on the state of the movement in
developing countries is the most interesting. Co-operatives
there are numerous; so are the failures. Reasons generally
advanced are: poor management, illiterate or ignorant members,
lack of trained leadership, complicated rules and regulation,
and lack of capital resources. To these Craig adds the
following: lack of development alternatives in agriculture
outside co-operatives, absence of industrial development
opportunities to wean away the high population engaged in
agriculture, lack of a suitable model for development and
hence the need for constant experimentation, close control of
the movement by the State. In support of his argument, Craig
cites the cases of India, Tanzania and China.

A chapter devoted to co-operatives without co-operative
content is particularly timely. Pakistan is a case in point.
Several finance organisations are registered as co-operatives.
These are controlled by small groups of private financiers and
control is highly centralised. The Federal Bank for
Co-operatives is not a co-operative bank but is entirely
controlled and financed by the State Bank of Pakistan.

The final chapter deals with consumer co-operatives in Japan.
How consumer co-operatives help to empower women is
illustrated through a detailed description of women's groups
called "Hans" which play a significant role in the consumer
movement. The achievements of Co-op Kanagawa are described and
particular attention is given to the issue of member
involvement. Future issues described by Co-op Kanagawa's
President Yamagishi at a recently held SAARC meeting in
Colombo are: the strategy to counter the decline of the Han
groups; facilitating participation by working people in
co-operative activities; effective internal communication
system; member and leadership education; combination of
pyramid and network forms of organisation; better employee
education to enable them to visualise members' perceptions of
a co-operative.

All in all, Craig has produced a very useful work. It is
backed by careful research and the writing is lucid. The work
will be helpful both to University students and to practical
Co-operators. An extensive bibliography is included.