ESPS2108 - Co-operation and co-operatives

Course value: 0.5 unit
Convenor: Dr Mary Hilson
Duration: One term (Term 2)
Teaching structure: One hour lecture and one hour seminar
Assessment: 1 assessed essay 2,000 words (40%), 1 assessed essay 3,000 words (60%)
Available to: Second Years, Final Years, and Affiliates


Course Description:

It is estimated that over 1 billion people worldwide are members of a co-operative. Co-operative businesses throughout the world seemed to be especially resilient to the global financial crisis that began in 2007, leading the UN to designate 2012 as ā€¯International Year of Co-operativesā€¯. At the same time, the once mighty Co-operative Group in the UK was in the news for very different reasons during the winter of 2013-14, embroiled in scandal and allegations of mismanagement.

The recent troubles at the Co-op illustrate some of the dilemmas of the wider co-operative movement that are explored in this course. What is co-operation? How are co-operative enterprises different from capitalist ones? How effective is co-operation as a business model? Are co-operatives simply another type of business that try to compete effectively within a capitalist system, or is co-operation a political movement that aspires to challenge capitalism altogether? Why do co-operatives flourish in particular times and places and why do they fail?

Co-operation has flourished in many different times and places. This course will draw on a range of historical and contemporary examples to explore these questions, including not only the well-known consumer co-operative societies of Europe but also the agricultural and credit co-operatives of the Global South. The approach is multi-disciplinary, drawing on research literatures in business and economic history, development studies, political science and economics.