Co-operative Basic Values (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)


The traditional views

("We share a vision as Co-operators: of people working together
to achieve their social and economic well-being, of rooting
their economic power in local and community organizations, of
meeting need through democratic organizations that preserve
the dignity of both people and nature.

We pursue this vision through our co-operatives -
organizations based on equity, equality and mutual self-help."

-Canadian Co-operative Vision 1981)

In the most general way the structure of a co-operative
organization might be characterized as a small or large group
of persons, who have joined together, formed an association
and worked towards a common end. This, however, has never been
considered to fully define a co-operative society, especially
if the co-operative organization is to be looked upon as an
expression of the ideas of Co-operation1. In this case
structural characteristics must be specified and supplemented
by values for the relations between:

1)   the association and the community at large
2)   the associated members
3)   the members and their association 
4)   the associations: locally, nationally and

This chapter is about how co-operators have traditionally
approached these relations from an idealistic point of view2. 

1.   The Concept of basic values
To start with we can clearly observe that co-operative ideas
have a rich history, going back to at least the 18th century.
There are the practices of working together in various
cultures of everyday life, there are the utopian thinkers and
there are the pioneers in co-operative organizing. There are
also all the various ideologies, visions and schools of
thought based on the ideas of Co-operation. These also
constitute the point of departure for the modern co-operative
organizations: the origins of their basic philosophy3. 

From this basis co-operators round the world have developed
and expressed views of what is good, desirable and worth
striving for to improve human living conditions. These have
applied to the individual co-operative society, the entire
community and, these have applied, ultimately, to the whole of
humanity. Some of these values have been considered as
"embodied" in the very concept of Co-operation. I refer to
them as "basic ideas" and "basic ethics".

The special character of Co-operation, however, has been
characterized by its practical approach. According to the
well-known saying: Co-operators "take the economy in their own
hands". The instruments for this have been co-operative
organizations of various types. These have mostly been
economic in character, but have had moral, ethical, social,
cultural and political motivations as well. In order to
function as vehicles for the values, the co-operative
organizations must function efficiently; so the basic ideas
and ethics have been supplemented with practical experiences
to form instrumental values. I will refer to these as "basic

("Co-operation preserves the characteristic feature of being
at once highly idealistic and extremely practical. It is at
the same time Martha and Mary, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
It chases the Bluebird but, instead of seeking it on the
Island of Bliss, attempts to capture it in a shop. It sets out
to reform the world, but begins by sweeping its own doorstep
clean. It follows the stars, but treads carefully."

-Charles Gide)

The introduction of such instrumental values was the
greatness of the pioneers of Rochdale, Schultze Dehlitsch,
Raiffeisen and Buchez. In this way they managed to combine
ideals with reality and to avoid the mistakes of the early
utopian experiments. That is why their models have become
prototypes for a whole world of co-operatives. 

I look upon the basic values as mainly consisting of: 

a)   Basic ideas and ethics: the basic philosophy of

b)   Basic principles (with a small 'p'): instrumental value
      guidelines for practice.

As a whole these cover the relationships (1) - ( 4) mentioned
above. They, so to speak, "pour" values into the co-operative
forms and structures. These also form the basis of the
institutional principles, of which the most famous are the ICA
Co-operative Principles.

2.   Basic ideas and ethics
Some ideas and ethics have been common in expressing the
meaning of Co-operation. These have constituted the
ideological climate for most of the co-operative
forerunners and pioneers from the last century, as well
as for closely related peoples' movements from these

These basic ideas and ethics form the value framework of
the co-operative organizations and in the larger context
of ideologies, these have constituted the basis of
Co-operation as a special socio-economic system, as a
"third way" between socialism and liberalism. 

("There has been a general agreement that values are the
forces which lie behind the creation of events, which
determine the order of life in a given community or group
of people. They are accepted embodiments of morals, norms
and the cultural pattern of a given society of a group of
people. Values form the fundamental beliefs of a given
society or group of people. They also provide the means
with which people in a given society can relate to each
other. They stimulate and influence, conduct and promote
change. They help to hold society together... They
generally constrain the individual's behaviour for the
accepted behaviour of the broader society. They are
essential factors of development, a process whereby the
group is equipped with the tools to operate as a wise and
progressive unit."

-P. Chilomo, Zambia)

2.1. Basic ideas
The evolution of these basic ideas has a long and
exciting history. In brief, the basic ideas may be
described as co-operative beliefs and convictions about
how to achieve a better society and what form such a
society might take. Co-operators have believed, stressed
and declared that:

-    Equal rights and opportunities for people to participate
      in a democratic way will improve the use of the society's
      resources and foster mutuality, understanding and
      solidarity (equality, democracy). 

-    A fair distribution of income and power in the society
      and in its economic life should be based on labour and
      not on the ownership of capital (equity, social justice). 

-    Activities in the society should be voluntary, as this is
      the best way to promote people's participation,
      commitment and responsibility (liberty, voluntariness). 

-    People have the will and the capability to improve living
     conditions according to the peaceful 'step-by-step' way,
     by means of consciousness-raising activities and of joint
     action for co-operative power (social and economic
     emancipation, mutual self-help).

-    The economic organizations of the community should be
      developed with the aim of serving the needs of the people
      (meeting economic needs). 

-    Economic and other organizations should be characterized
      by responsibility for the community as a whole (social

-    Living conditions should be improved with international
      and global perspectives in mind (internationalism, global
      solidarity and peace). 

-    These ideas can still be found in the programmes of
      action, study material etc. of co-operative
      organizations. Their overall actual relevance is
      difficult to estimate, but committed co-operators look
      upon them as a basic ideological framework for the
      long-term co-operative way. Probably, however, these
      ideas are "sleeping in the background", as symbols of
     Co-operation, but hopefully ready to be mobilized when
     and if critical situations emerge. 

 ("These Credit Union Operating Principles are founded in
the philosophy of Co-operation and its central values of
equality, equity and mutual self-help. Recognizing the
varied practices in the implementation of credit union
philosophy around the world, at the heart of these
principles is the concept of human development and the
brotherhood of man expressed through people working
together to achieve a better life for themselves and
their community."

-From 'Philosophy and Uniqueness', 1988)

Some of these ideas have been identified by co-operators,
co-operative ideologists and co-operative researchers as
essential to the basis of the ICA Co-operative
Principles. These are often referred to as the basic
values of equality, equity, mutual self-help and social
and economic emancipation.

2.2. Basic ethics
From the beginning ethical and moral values, concepts of
human ideals, about "the co-operative man", "the
co-operative spirit" and "the co-operative community"
have been included, and implicit, in the basic ideas.
These ideals have been looked upon both as desirable
results of the co-operative process of development and as
necessary preconditions for it. Co-operative development
should gradually create better conditions for these
ideals. The process needs true co-operators and a true
co-operative spirit in order to carry this out6.

To express these basic ethics in the same way as for the
basic ideas, one might say that co-operators should:

-    Live as they learn (honesty)

-    Take interest in and care about other people 
      (humanism, caring)

-    Apply a spirit of mutuality in dealings with her/his
      fellow co-operators (solidarity, mutuality)

-    Take responsibility for his/her personal action, for the
      activity as a whole and for its impact on society at
      large (responsibility)

-    Believe in social and economic justice (justness,

-    Defend democratic rights and democratic ways of
     decision-making, participate in democratic life and
     respect democratically agreed decisions (democratic mind)

-    Demonstrate faith in the co-operative way (constructiveness).

Today it is more relevant to speak about the "co-operative 
culture" as characterizing co-operative collectivity. This has 
always been the intention of co-operators.

("But does this ideal co-operator exist? Probably not in one
individual. But, in co-operative action what is missing by one
person might be supplied by others. Furthermore, it is not a
question of totally realizing this human ideal, but of
striving towards it."

-Lasserre, 1977) 

Are these values still relevant? Yes, as I have noticed,
there are parts of the co-operative world in which these
ideals are taken seriously, and it is obvious that many
co-operative organizations are characterized by an
organizational culture that more-or-less reflects them.
It is very difficult to estimate the importance of a
living "co-operative culture", but it most probably
belongs to the basic success criteria. 

2.3  Contexts
Co-operators and co-operative ideologists have elaborated
on these basic ideas and ethics in various ways and
expressed them in some broader contexts of visions and
school of thoughts. The most well-known of which are the
total visions of 'Co-operative Commonwealth', 'Co-operative 
Communities', 'Co-operatism' and 'Co-operative Self-
management'. To some extent, these are still  relevant as overall 
conceptions of the co-operative way, but these have mostly 
become more partial in character. Variations of the "co-operative 
sector" have become more realistic visions, as have the various 
roles of co-operatives in society at large, such as "school of
(economic) democracy", "instrument for human resource
mobilization"  and "a basis of countervailing power" in
production and distribution. 

("My outlook is to convulse India with the Co-operative
Movement, or rather with Co-operation: to make it, broadly
speaking, the basic activity of India, in every village as
well as elsewhere; and finally, indeed, to make the
Co-operative approach the common thinking of India....... The
idea of co-operation is something much more than merely an
efficient economic way of doing things. It is economic, it is
fair, it equalizes and prevents the disparities from growing.
But it is something even deeper than that. It is really a way
of life and a way of life which is certainly not a capitalist
way of life and which is not a hundred percent socialist,
though it is much nearer socialism than capitalism. Anyhow, it
is a way of life."

-J. Nehru, 1960 (from R. C. Dwivedi 1989)

Finally, it goes without saying that these basic ideas and ethics 
have been interpreted differently in different practical contexts. 
Co-operative organizations have been established in various 
political, economic and cultural contexts and have also to some 
extent collaborated with,     and identified themselves with, 
political parties and other movements. This has given different 
interpretations and priorities to the basic values, which have had
different relevance from time to time and place to place.
They have also been emphasized differently by various
types of co-operative. 

This will be equally true of future situations. In practice, there 
cannot be any 'unitary' interpretations of these values.

3.   Basic principles
One might say that the basic ideas and ethics have formed
the general framework of values for co-operative
organizations practice. In order to make these into
viable organizations, co-operators have developed some
basic principles, which we can call "instrumental values
and characteristics". 

("The co-operative approach implies:

a)   treating people as origins of action, not as objects to
      be manipulated or serviced:

b)   encouraging people to work together and help one 
      another solve mutual problems;

c)   designing useful structures, processes, products and
      services so as to meet people`s needs rather than for
      profit-making purposes alone."

-B.Briscoe and others, 1982)

Since these are well-known at the micro levels, I will
just mention them briefly, in order to give the whole
picture for later discussions. 

3.1. Principles at the micro level
To summarize:

-    The obvious and common denominator behind co-operatives
      is, or should be, that co-operative organizations are
      associations of persons. The members are members as
      persons, or, at secondary and tertiary levels, the
      members are primary member societies based on the
      principle of personal association. Co-operatives are
      consequently not associations of capital. 

-    Groups of persons have established co-operatives because
      they have found that this is the proper way to work
      together in order to promote needs they have in common as
      producers or as consumers. So, the activity of the
      co-operative societies is intended to meet member needs
      rather than to make profits. 

-    The activities must be carried out in an efficient way.
      The co-operative must be viable as an alternative to
      other kinds of organization; the services from the
      co-operatives must not, at least not for long periods, be
     worse than those of other organizations. On the contrary,
     they should be better. So, a "well understood", if often
     implicit principle, is efficiency for the benefit of members.

This fundamentally implies that the economic result of
the co-operative must be seen in terms of success or
failure in satisfying the needs of its members. The
result cannot be considered, as in capital associations,
as mostly or only profits on (return on) invested
capital. It must be measured in terms of member utility. 

-    The process of establishment has been, and still is, an
      act based on values of mutual self-reliance and
      responsibility. This is also a significant characteristic
      of viable co-operatives during their lifetime. The
      individual members pool their resources together in order
      to multiply them and this has constituted, and still
      constitutes, one of the strengths of the co-operative way
      of organizing. Empirical evidence has often demonstrated
      that this presupposes a voluntary relationship between
      the members and their society. Co-operatives that have
      been established from above, or that have forced persons
      to become or remain members, lose this characteristic
      sooner or later. 

-    Since the aim of co-operatives is to serve the needs of
      their members, it must be the members who decide how to
     use the resources of the co-operative and how to shape
     its services. In other words, co-operatives must be
     controlled and managed by their members. This is easiest
     if equity capital is the main capital and is owned by the
     members and their societies. Furthermore, the
     co-operative cannot accept outside interference with its
     internal matters, be it from governments or other
     organizations. In other words, this sums up values of
     self-reliance and autonomy. 

In this way the members are the users of services, the 
managers of resources and the owners of capital. This is
often referred to as the fundamental unity or identity
principle of Co-operation. 

("A co-operative is a user-owned and user-controlled business
that distributes benefits on the basis of use. More
specifically, it is distinguished from other business by three
concepts of principles: first, the user-owner principle.
Persons who own and finance the co-operatives are those that
use it. Second, the user-control principle. Control of the
co-operative is by those who use the co-operative. Third, the
user-benefits principle. Benefits are distributed to its users
on the basis of their use. The user-benefits principle is
often stated as business-at-cost."

-D. Barton, 1988, Chairman of American Institute of Co-operation)

-    The maintenance of the viable co-operative demands a
      basis of equality among the members, carried out by
      democratic management when it comes to the distribution
      of power. The members must have equal rights to
      participate in the activities of the co-operative and to
      decide about the use of its resources. This is an empirical 
      experience, but also an essential value. A co-operative 
      organization should be democratic. 

-    For similar reasons the co-operative must apply a fair
     distribution of benefits among members. No member can be
     favoured at the expense of other members.

-    Finally, in order to improve their co-operative services,
     to be able to offer competitive services in comparison
     with other associations and to promote good conditions
     for their co-operatives, the members and member-delegates
     need education in practical matters, as well as knowledge
     and understanding of co-operative methods and of changes
     in the co-operative environment. 

The form developed for organizing co-operative activities
in order to apply those principles is the co-operative
society. In most countries this form is regulated by
state legislation: by co-operative law. For some types of
co-operative activity, however, this form is not possible
or suitable for various reasons, mostly juridical
reasons. This is especially true for co-operative
insurance and banking activities, which have usually
developed special forms of organization. 

("A co-operative is an association of person who have
voluntarily joined together to achieve a common end
through the formation of a democratically controlled
organization, making equitable contributions to the
capital required and accepting a fair share of the risks
and benefits of the undertaking in which members actively

-ILO recommendations, 1966)

3.1.1.    The dual character
It is appropriate to mention in this context that
discussions about the *basic character* of the
co-operative society are to be found throughout the
co-operative history.  A usual way has been to consider
the co-operative society as characterized by a "double(dual)
nature": an association of persons (the member association) 
and its economic enterprises for the needs of those persons7. 
Sometimes it is also referred to as the 'social character' and 
the 'economic character' of the co-operative society. On the 
other hand, it has been emphasized that the co-operative 
society has an "integrated nature": the association of persons 
and its economic enterprises constitute an integrated wholeness,
a unity. Some implications for the practice of this "conceptional 
dispute" are discussed in chapter VI, section 3.1. 

3.2. Principles at the macro level
The basic principles for co-operatives at the micro level
are quite well analyzed by co-operators, co-operative
researchers and by co-operative ideologists. These are
also well covered by co-operative laws, Co-operative
Principles, etc. The same is not true for macro levels (4
above). Our 'box of systematized knowledge' is quite
empty regarding these instrumental values and the
significant features of the viable macro models. Neither
are there any value recommendations with the status of
Principles for those organizational levels, except the
general ICA Principles about "co-operation among
co-operatives" and about democracy at secondary levels. 

This is problematic, since the main troubles of identity
during later decades are connected with co-operative
organizations at these macro levels. Instead, there seems
to be a common view that principles from the micro level
could be adapted to suit macro levels. To some extent
this is true. But it is also true that the macro levels
have their own mechanisms and their own characteristics,
which should motivate special principles. There are at
least four such concepts of "co-operation between
co-operatives" in this context: 

1)   The co-operative movement
2)   The co-operative federation
3)   The co-operative sector
4)   The co-operative network.

I am not able to discuss this subject in as much detail
as at the micro level, so I restrict myself to some
outlines. The basis of those are, of course, the
individual primary co-operatives, which are built on the
basic principles above. 

3.2.1.    The Co-operative Movement
Co-operation as a Movement is above all built on, and
based on, people and people's expectations of a better
society. The Co-operative Movement is an organization for
social change "by, for and through the people". One might
even say that co-operative movements are, and should be,
people mobilized for common aims. The significant\
principles are above all 'democracy' and 'participation'. 

("Our co-operative tradition and our popular movement
tradition also includes values such as commitment,
independence, honesty, openness, co-operation, solidarity
and care of people and environment. These values shall be
the basis of the ethical considerations made in all our
activity, both when it comes to setting goals and in
discussions about the ways to reaching those goals."

-KF Sweden, Goals and Guidelines, 1989.)

According to experience and to research a viable
co-operative movement is especially characterized by a
continuous reproduction of its aims in terms of the
contemporary society and of applications of structures
for participation and for the associated persons to meet.
If the organizations neglect to reproduce these, they
sooner or later will disappear as movements and transform
into bureaucratic hierarchies or into business oriented

3.2.2.    The Co-operative federation
Co-operation as a Federation is the old and genuine
co-operative way of "co-operation among co-operatives".
This way of organizing development and growth tries to
combine local autonomy with the centralized efficiency of
economies scale and specialization. In joining the
federation, primary societies have passed some of their
functions to the secondary or tertiary level societies
(unions). They have also given up some of their autonomy
in order to gain efficiency, power and support. 

The federation usually operates an inner planning system,
a 'planned economy', for the business oriented relations
between the individual societies and the common bodies at
secondary and tertiary levels. There is usually no
competition inside the federation. The internal prices,
etc. are determined in other ways.  

A viable federation is characterized by the existence of
common aims and ideas (an ideology), serving as the
"glue" between the societies and the federative bodies.
It is also characterized by a clear-cut division of
labour and a clear cut distribution of responsibility
between the local and central levels and, of course, by
the capacity to offer better services to the societies
than the available alternatives. When and if the
federation cannot reproduce these common aims and values,
the federative structure will be more difficult to
manage. The usual economic "cost-benefit calculuation"
will dominate the relations, the *transaction costs* of
the federation will increase and sooner or later it will
experience difficulties (chapter VI, section 3.4).

3.2.3.    The Co-operative sector
Co-operation as a Co-operative sector has similarities
with the federation, but is usually much more loosely
organized - if it is organized at all. The vision and the
practice of this way of co-operation is, of course, to
take advantage of the shared aims and basic values. For
these reasons there might be some profits in lower
"transaction costs" and there might be some special
collaborative opportunities based on mutual reliance. It
might also be looked upon as strength in a common
identity, for instance in relations with governments and
the general public. In the more detailed visions of the
co-operative sector approach, there also might be
possibility of developing various ways to systematically
support newer and younger co-operatives in their 'infant'
stages of growth, 

("... which enthused co-operators with the vision of a
complete transformation to be achieved by the development
of co-operation and nothing else. However, on a more
positive and realistic view, it appears that neither
consumers' co-operation alone nor even all forms of
co-operation together can embrace the whole of economic
life. They can only aim at occupying a sector, the extent
of which of course varies with the nature of the
political and economic forces in the environment and with
the abilities of the co-operators themselves. Moreover,
despite their efforts to link up with one another and to
satisfy their mutual needs among themselves, they remain
a system open to the rest of the economy."

-G. Fauquet, 1942.)

There are interesting examples of this advanced sector
idea, at local as well as national and regional levels.
There are, for instance, the community co-operatives in
Japan, the kibbutzim in Israel, the Mondragon in northern
Spain and the growing sector of 'économie sociale' in
France and southern Europe (although the latter includes
more than co-operative organizations). Again, however, as
in the federal approach, the ability to reproduce common
aims and values is a basic precondition for this
approach. Otherwise, the will to search for mutual
co-operative relations in the process of growth and
development will weaken and the concept of the
'Co-operative sector' will become merely a statistical one.  

3.2.4.    The Co-operative network
This is a loose form of collaboration, with some of the
characteristics of the 'Co-operative Federation\' and the
`Co-operative sector', but which lacks their more or less
formal common bodies. It is a highly informal kind of
co-operation between co-operatives and seems to have
become more usual during the last decade.

4.   The ICA Principles
The ICA Principles are an interpretation of the Rochdale
values and rules, expressing what have been considered as
the essential perspectives of the basic ideas, ethics and
principles above. There have been some differences of
opinion about the exact Rochdale origins, but these are
usually regarded as a combination between the first
declaration of 1844 and the lists of rules of 1860 (see
appendix 1). The ICA Co-operative Principles might be
looked upon as the bridge that combines values with
reality. They are intended to promote basic values
through practical application; in this way the Principles
have the character of both values and rules. As said
above, the Principles are seen as reflecting the basic
ideas of 'equality', 'equity' and 'mutual self-help', and
also 'social and economic emancipation'.

I will return to the ICA Principles in more detail in
chapter VIII. At this stage of our discussion, however,
we can observe that these cover most of the basic
principles at the micro level. Nevertheless, the
Principles do not have much to say about some of them, at
least not explicitly. This is especially true about
'autonomy' and about the closely related 'member owned
capital'. Neither do the Principles state anything
significant about "efficient economizing" with
co-operative resources. But, certainly, these are 'well
understood' values, implicit in the Principles, much
emphasized by, for instance, the Commission of
Co-operative Principles in its report of 1966: and also
by co-operative practice.

4.1. 'Eternal' issues of policy
Some basic issues are always raised in discussions about
basic values and the ICA Principles: 

a)   What are, or should be, the relationships between member
      needs and the needs of society at large? To what extent 
      should the co-operative take into account the needs of
      the community when carrying out its activities? To what
      extent should co-operatives bother about aims outside
      their basic aim to promote the welfare of their members? 

b)   What are the essential target areas of the population for
      co-operative development and for the promotion of new
      co-operatives? Should co-operatives be mainly oriented
      towards the needs of the poorer and the disabled part of
      the population? 

c)  What are, or should be, the relationships between
      co-operative organizations and political issues? 

d)  What are, or should be, the relationships between
      individuality and collectivity in co-operatives? For
      instance, between the individual member and the society
      as a whole in issues of capital formation? To what extent
      should the capital be owned by the members individually,
      and to what extent by the members as a whole? 

These kinds of issues have caused intensive debates and
raised serious conflicts about the "correct co-operative
way". There are no unequivocal universal answers. Nor are
any answers to be found in a literal interpretation of the 
ICA Principles, as many co-operators have noted.
These issues are basically a matter of co-operative

However, when examining co-operative history it becomes
evident that co-operative movements do have a responsibility 
to, and a concern for, the whole community, especially for 
the economically and socially weaker part of the population. 
That is why the Co-operative Movement was born and why it 
developed. This was also confirmed by the ICA Congress in 
Stockholm, when it unanimously supported the basic value 
of "caring for others". Quite another question, however, is the 
one about establishing viable co-operative ways to fulfil
these aims. 

("Co-operation is the antithesis of conflict. In our
struggle for global economic integration we set ultimate
goals in creating employment without exploitation;
distribution with a sense of responsibility to the
consumer; production that allows the farmer a fair return
on produce; and capital that does not demand an
unreasonable return on investment. These principles must
also serve as the cornerstone of our trade network."

-Ray Ison, Australian Association of Co-operatives, 1989)

The issue of "neutrality" has been debated throughout the
century, especially in connection with the formation of
the ICA Principles. The first published Principles of
1937 included one about "political and religious
neutrality", but this was abandoned 1966. Certainly,
co-operative organizations cannot be neutral on political
issues, since co-operative activity is, in itself, a
political action. Many co-operative organizations have
instead made this point clear by replacing "political
neutrality" with "political independence". This implies
that co-operatives should carry out their own opinions
without undue dependence on other organizations or on
political parties. I consider that as the proper
interpretation for the future. 

Finally, the issue about the balance between individuality 
and collectivity: there are no universal answers at the ICA 
level or among the ICA members. There are various views 
and practices, depending on context. It is no use, either, to 
try to take some generalizations regarding principles in such 
issues, since the solutions must be different in different contexts. 
It is basically a matter of co-operative policy.

5.   Conclusions
During my preparatory work I have understood that
co-operative values have been expressed and used in many
ways, I have distinguished between three categories of
basic values: basic ideas, ethics, and principles. 

5.1. Basic ideas and ethics
Evidently, there is a basic framework of ideas which have
always been associated with the concept of Co-operation.
I have identified the following as the most common:

1)   Equality (democracy)
2)   Equity (social justice)
3)   Liberty (voluntariness)
4)   Mutual self-help (solidarity and self-reliance) 
5)   Social emancipation (mobilization of human resources)
6)   Altruism (social responsibility)
7)   Economy (meeting peoples' economic needs) 
8)   Internationalism (international solidarity, peace).

We, as co-operators, have always fought for these ideas;
 they constitute the core of the co-operative plea for a
better society at large. Closely related to these ideas
are the basic ethics about 'the co-operative man' and
`the co-operative spirit', basics for the co-operative
culture of organization:

-    Honesty
-    Humanity, caring 
-    Solidarity, mutuality
-    Responsibility, fidelity
-    Justness, fairness
-    Democratic approach
-    Constructiveness

These basic ideas and ethics outline the main means and
the ends of the "Co-operative Project" in its relationship 
with society at large. These are also important when it 
comes to the interpretation of instrumental values, especially 
the ICA Principles, because the Principles, interpreted 
literally and taken in isolation, give no guidelines on 
important issues of overall orientation. To understand these, 
we need to "read between the lines" and to look for the basics. 

I have the impression that there is, at least within the
ICA, quite widespread agreement on those ideas and ethics
as long as we keep ourselves to the general co-operative
contexts of ideology. But, as soon as these are
interpreted in more pronounced ideological orientations,
close to other ideologies, the universal character will
disappear. We know that from our history and, of course,
this is a policy matter for individual co-operative
organizations. However, if we have a strong ambition to
determine values which will unite the whole co-operative
sector of the world, it is necessary to keep in mind the
statement of many co-operators - Co-operation is neither
socialism nor liberalism; Co-operation is an independent
socio-economic system. 

5.2. Basic principles
Turning to the instrumental values, the "Basic
Principles", these are especially relevant as guidelines
for viable co-operative organizations. I have identified
the following characteristics:

1)   Association of persons
2)   Activity to meet members` needs (the service aim)
3)   Efficiency for the benefit of members
4)   Mutuality - responsibility between members and their 
5)   Member participation and democratic management
6)   Unity and identity
7)   Self-reliance and autonomy
8)   Voluntary and open (non-discriminatory) membership 
9)   Fair distribution of benefits
10) Education

With some exceptions these are quite well reflected by
the ICA Principles. I have the impression that people are
usually thinking of these basic principles when discussing 
changes or revisions of 'values'. 

5.3. Changes and revisions
Finally, we face the crucial issue: can it really be
meaningful to search for 'new' values or to consider
changes or revisions of those values that we have
traditionally regarded as basic? Are they not, as a
matter of fact, so eternally and deeply embedded in the
very concept of Co-operation that they are impossible to
change without changing the essential meaning of
Co-operation? And that cannot be the intention, or can it?

I have met these questions quite often, and have also put
them to myself. As I see it, however, the answer depends\
on what you understand by 'change' or `revisions'. I
understand mainly three types8: 

1)   The values might be reinterpreted in accordance with 
      past and present experiences.

2)   Individual values might be emphasized differently from 
       time to time, depending on their relevance. 

3)   The various elements of the "basis of values" (the values
       as a whole) might be given different priorities over time
       and in various contexts.
Such changes and revisions have taken place throughout
Co-operative history; and they are necessary because the
relevance of each of the values cannot always be the
same. Some of the values, for instance, might have been
realized in the overall development of society at large
or "taken over" by the work of other organizations and

Nor do revisions alter the meaning of Co-operation. On the 
contrary, this is the proper way for co-operatives, as for other 
ideologically-based organizations, to keep their values living and 
relevant as "generations and centuries roll on". Because the 
co-operative values, inherited as they are from earlier generations 
of co-operators, cannot be more than "raw material" in the
process of co-operative development. The inherited values
must continually be recreated, refined and revalued for
every generation by being expressed in terms of the
contemporary society. They are not immutable. They must
be living and relevant or they will loose their relevance
as guidelines and become dogmas and relics, ready to
disappear in the darkness of history. 

("A movement that lacks ideas cannot become dangerous. 
A revolutionary movement that is not supported by ideals
can never be successful. Constructive idealism is not
only the driving force in every major popular movement;
it is also a bulwark against reaction."

-H. C. Cole, 1920)

Still, however, these issues are delicate. There are,
naturally, basic ideas among committed co-operators of
what should constitute the essence of co-operation. If
the process of change comes too much into conflict with
these ideas co-operative organizations are faced with
serious problems of identity. To complicate the situation, 
we can note that the borders of identity are not 
unequivocal so there is an evident risk of unintentionally 
passing them, especially as the members are becoming 
more passive.  

The need for revisions, however, cannot be considered
from the mostly idealistic point of view with which this
chapter has been concerned. In order to discuss such
needs it is necessary to examine the long-term trends in
contemporary society to see how the values have been
handled in practice. The main problems in such contexts,
which we will examine in more detail, are concerned with
the fact that some of these basic values have been
'questioned' by co-operative practice, especially during
the 80's. I will return to the need to change the values
in chapters VII and VIII. 


(1)  There are no universally accepted definitions of a
       co-operative society, see e.g. Chukwu (1990)a list 
       of various definitions.

(2)  The general approach to the concept of `basic values' 
       is mainly my own, since this is not a common concept 
       in co-operative history of ideas. I am particularly influenced 
       in the definitions by Lambert (1963), Munkner (1974, 1985), 
       Briscoe (1982), Rokholt (1984) and Watkins (1986).

(3)  Among others: Cole (1944), Hall/Watkins (1937),
       Krashenninikov (1988), MacPherson (1979), Miller (1927).

(4)  See (2) and also Dubhashi (1979), Laurinkaari (1990), 
       Nilsson (1986).

(5)  See e.g. Craig (1980), Colombain (1976).

(6)  Lasserre (1977), Birchell (1988), Regis (1991).

(7)  Fauquet (1951), Munkner (1991).

(8)  I  got the idea from Ilmonen (1991, III:1).

Appendix A: The Rochdale Programme:

Objects- Law First

-    The objects and plans of this society are to form
      arrangements for the pecuniary benefit, and improvement
      of the society and domestic condition of its members, by
      raising a sufficient amount of capital in shares of one
      pound each, to bring into operation the following plans
      and arrangements.

-    The establishment of a store for the sale of provisions
      and clothing, etc.

-    The building, purchasing or erecting of a number of
      houses, in which those members desiring to assist each
      other in improving their domestic and social condition
      may reside.

-    To commence the manufacture of such articles as the
      society may determine upon, for the employment of such
      members as may be without employment, or who may be
      suffering in consequence of repeated reductions in their

-    As a further benefit and security to the members of this
      society, the society shall purchase or rent an estate or
      estates of land, which shall be cultivated by the members
      who may be out of employment, or whose labour may be
      badly remunerated.

-    That, as soon as practicable, this society shall proceed
      to arrange the powers of production, distribution,
      education, and government, or in other words to establish
      a self-supporting home colony of united interests, or
      assist other societies in establishing such colonies.

-    That for the promotion of sobriety, a temperance hotel be
      opened in one of the society`s houses as soon as

The rules and the methods:

1.   To sell goods at prevailing local prices.

2.   Restriction to a fixed rate of the interest upon capital-
       this interest to have first claim upon the profits.

3.   The distribution of profits (after meeting expenses and
       interest charges) in proportion to purchases.

4.   No credit - all purchases and sales to be paid for in
       cash when the goods were handed over.

5.   Both sexes to have equality in member rights.

6.   Each member to have one vote and no more.

7.   Regular and frequent meetings to be held for the
       discussion of the society's business and of receiving
       suggestions for improving the society's welfare.

8.   Accounts to be properly kept and audited; and balance
       sheets to be regularly presented to the members.

(from Hall/Watkins p 86,87)