In the economic literature, worker co-operatives are viewed as small, specialised and undercapitalised organisations that only thrive in unusual conditions and could not possibly constitute a serious alternative to conventional firms. This chapter challenges this conventional wisdom, drawing on a range of international economic studies comparing worker co-operatives and conventional firms. The evidence reviewed suggests that worker co-operatives match ‘mainstream’ firms for durability, and can be found in most industrial sectors. The chapter rejects the notion that worker co-operatives are systemically undercapitalised, and asserts that many are more productive than their mainstream equivalents, largely because of their capacity to motivate workers through their control of the enterprise. It suggests that worker co-operation is a viable alternative to private ownership for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and that in some regions of Italy and Spain, the model is integrated into the economic mainstream.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book attempts to convey the different sociological contexts for how contemporary anarchist theory and practice is to be understood. It concentrates on the issue of broadening the parameters of how anarchist theory and practice is conceptualised. The question of individual liberty and collective needs raises an equally important anarchist principle: equating the means of an action with its ends. The book compares the major philosophical differences and strategies between the classical period and the contemporary anti-capitalist movements. It assesses the viability of libertarian education, a century on from the life and work of Spanish writer and activist Francisco Ferrer and finds considerable evidence for the endurance of these ideals.
This chapter illustrates the importance of broadening the understanding of social anarchism. Social anarchism has shifted its ground as it has embraced some elements of poststructuralist philosophy. This shift in territory from social to poststructuralist anarchism is most noticeable and particularly important at two levels of theory. The first, and the one that underscores the others, is the poststructuralist denunciation of foundationalist discourses or narratives. The second shift in theoretical territory is less pronounced but nonetheless real. The chapter suggests that, when situated alongside the practices of new social movements associated with the anticapitalist protests, the poststructuralist perspective affords insight into how new modes of anarchist practice are emerging. It also highlights how anarchist theory and practice is evolving into something distinct and is, at the same time, nurturing contemporary modes of resistance against traditional social, political and economic forms of oppression.