Author's Preface (1992)

This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
October, 1992
(Source: Co-operative Values in a Changing World (1992)
                           Author`s Preface
"Essential co-operative values for the future and their
implications for the co-operative principles"
Preparing a report about these crucial issues has,
without doubt, been one of the most challenging tasks of
my 25 years' work for the Co-operative Movement. I cannot
think of any more urgent subject for committed
co-operators, and this has been confirmed during my
preparatory work. Many co-operators around the world are
considering these issues very deeply and are seeking
answers. During recent decades we have experienced
far-reaching changes within the Co-operative Movement,
and we can expect even more radical changes in the
future. Most of the world co-operative sector seems to be
in transition to some extent. In such times we need, more
than ever, basic guidelines to demonstrate the identity
of the co-operative way and its contributions to mankind.
How should such issues be approached in a limited report?
Certainly, I find the task daunting, above all as I
clearly understand that the co-operative world is
becoming more diversified in its practical applications.
To what degree can we theorise without losing contact
with reality? What is general and what is specific? I
have tried to be as fair as possible within the world
co-operative perspective but there are some weaknesses
and, naturally, it is impossible to be very concrete.
Neither can I escape from my own background and
experiences; these have influenced my approach to the
Why bother with practical applications in a report about
values and ideals? These should be the long-term basic
guidelines for practice and, as such, can be expected to
be universal, and not very difficult to approach in some
shorter report. This is partly true. On the other hand, a
review of values and principles cannot concern itself
solely with co-operative ideals. The crucial issue today
is not primarily about ideas as such, but about the
relationship between these and current co-operative
practice. A report about the future must reflect this,
otherwise it will have no practical relevance.
With such considerations in mind, I have chosen to
examine the co-operative values from three perspectives:

-  ideas and ideals 
-  practices and experiences
-  prospects and visions for the future.
I have encountered many views among co-operators and
co-operative researchers on how to emphasize these
perspectives and view the relationship between them. 
I consider them to be interrelated in co-operative
practice. They all influence the relevant interpretations
of values and principles.
Such an approach raises the question of generality and
universality in global perspectives: almost impossible to
manage, since practices and experiences, as stated above,
are becoming very diversified indeed. I have tried to
cope with this by paying special attention to the most
problematic aspects of co-operative identity, because
these are the main reasons for the review of values and
principles. As usual, however, such approaches tend to
underestimate normal and good experiences, and to
overestimate the problematic.  I have not ignored the
problems, but I have tried to balance them in a
constructive way by also referring to successes.
The report is composed in the following way:
-   Chapter I outlines today's main challenges for the
     world co-operative movement and constitutes the
     general framework of this report.
-   Chapter II briefly identifies the traditional basic
     values as they have been perceived until recent
     decades. It is mostly an analytical summary of the
     wealth of background material currently available. 
-   Chapters III - V examine the experiences of recent
     decades in the context of the traditional values: an
     overall view of the development of the world
     co-operative sector in order to identify the
     problems. There are also some more detailed
     discussions regarding democracy and capital
     formation, two of the most critical issues for the
     modern co-operative movement.
-   Chapter VI discusses the experiences within a
     framework of co-operative effectiveness. To what
     extent do basic conflicts exist between economic
     efficiency and other aspects of co-operative
-   Chapter VII sets out the main conclusions about
     values for the future, expressed as recommendations
     for co-operative practice in global ICA
-   Finally, Chapter VIII examines the main implications
     for the existing ICA Co-operative Principles, and
     recommends two different approaches to revisions for
     the future.
It goes without saying, that a large amount of material
from diverse sources has been used in the preparation of
this report, including the results of co-operative
research, my experiences and those of other co-operators.
As a rule, I have not discussed these in great detail in
the report, but have tried to draw them together to form
broader conclusions. I have also tried to avoid the
"armchair" method of preparing the report, preferring the 
"action and dialogue" one. Among other things this has
involved the organization of seminars, conferences,
lectures and interviews in many parts of the world. I
have also tried to attend as many other co-operative
seminars and meetings as possible. This method of working
has been fruitful for me. It has widened my co-operative
horizons and, hopefully, made my conclusions more
diversified and closer to co-operative realities. I hope
that this report will continue the dialogue we started
within the world-wide Co-operative Movement. 
Many co-operators, co-operative researchers and
co-operative leaders have helped me to research this
report. I am overwhelmed by the reception I have
experienced everywhere, by all the material given to me
and by all the time made available for discussions (see
acknowledgements below). I have also been impressed by
all the serious co-operative work I have seen. I thank
you all for your assistance, for your generosity and for
your hospitality! I can assure you that I have
appreciated your help and encouragement, and I hope you
will find this report useful. I also appreciate the
contribution of the ICA Office, the Research Working
Party and the Advisory Committee. We have had honest
discussions regarding issues of principle, and I have
been given valuable advice. The Advisory Committee has
been a great support to me in many ways. I would stress,
however, that all judgements, conclusions, etc. in the
report are my own and not those of the Committee.
Some parts of the report contain critical assessments of
co-operative practice. Such assessments are necessary to
enable a serious review of values and principles for the
future of the Co-operative Movement. However, I do hope
that the report expresses a constructive spirit, and a
serious will to look for consensus. We need to be in
agreement about future global perspectives, because
co-operatives have as much as ever to contribute to the
future of mankind. With this in mind, global solidarity
should be considered as the fundamental basic value.
Sven Ake Book
Author`s acknowledgements
I hesitate to make acknowledgements, because they cannot
be complete, but I would like to thank the following
organizations for their assistance:
-   Centrosoyus, USSR: Host for the Advisory Committee
     Seminar on Eastern European Experiences, for study
     visits and lecture programmes (March 1990       and May 1990).
-   International Labour Office (ILO), Geneva: Basic
     materials, reports, advice.
-   Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives
     (ZENCHU), Japan: Conferences, seminars, lectures,
     study tour. (July 1990).
-   Japanese Consumer Co-operative Union (JCCU), Japan:
     Conferences, lectures, interviews, study visits.
     (November 1990).
-   Federation of Danish Co-operators, Denmark:
     Interviews and discussions. (July 1991).
-   ICA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, India:
     Organization of seminar for the Research Working
     Party and seminars, lectures and study visits.
     (September 1989 and March 1990).
-   Sapporo Citizen's Co-operative Organization, Japan:
     Conference and study visits. (November 1990)

-   Saxena Associates, Canada: Background report on ICA
     Co-operative Principles, advice. (1990/1991)
-   ICA Regional Office for East, Central and Southern
     Africa, Tanzania: Interviews, discussions, study
     visits. (July 1990).
-   Co-operative College of Tanzania: Interviews,
     lectures seminar. (July 1990).
-   Marburg University, Co-operative Department,
     Germany: Interviews, discussions, materials. (July
-   Groupe National de la Cooperation, France: Seminar,
     study visits, lectures.(January 1992).
-   Bologna University, Co-operative Department, Italy:
     Organization of seminar for the Research Working
     Party. (November 1988).
 -   Hungarian Co-operative Institute, Hungary:
     Organization of seminar for Research Working Party,
     current material on Eastern Europe. (1989 - 91).

-   Co-op Dortmund, Germany: Interview and discussion.
     (July 1991).
-   Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agriculture
     Co-operatives, Greece: Host for the Advisory
     Committee, study visits. (May 1991).
-   World Council of Credit Unions, European Office,
     Geneva: materials, discussions (1990/91).
-   Instituto per a la Promocio i a la Formacio
     cooperativas, Barcelona, Spain: Co-organizer of the
     seminar of the Research Working Party in Madrid,
     materials and discussions. (September 1991).
-   Kooperativa Forbundet (KF), Sweden: Financial and
     administrative support (1989-92).
-   Swedish Co-operative Institute, Sweden: Financial
     support, material (1989 -92).

-   Swedish Society for Co-operative Studies, Sweden:
     Seminars, discussions, conferences (1989 - 92).

-   Finnish Labour Economic Institute, Finland: K
     Ilmonen, current consultations.
-   NTUC, Singapore: Interviews, study visits (November
-   Libraries in KF (Sweden), ICA (Geneva) and in ICA
     ROAP (India).
-   ICA Research Working Party: Seminars in Denmark
     (Co-operative Values before the Future), Bologna
     (Co-operative Democracy), Stockholm (Cooperative 
     Development and Change), Delhi (Co-operative
     Values and Relations to the State), Madrid
     (Co-operative Capital Formation) and Berlin
     (Co-operative Structures and Federations)

I was invited to visit other co-operative organizations,
but was not able to respond until this year due to a very
busy schedule.
I would also like to thank all organizations and
individuals for discussions, papers, books and letters.