The cooperative movement has been fueled globally by ideas of economic democracy. Economic democracy is a socioeconomic philosophy that suggests an expansion of decision-making power from a small minority of corporate shareholders to a larger majority of public stakeholders. There are many different approaches to thinking about and building economic democracy. Both Marxism and anarchism, for example, have been influenced by utopian socialism, which was based on voluntary cooperation, without recognition of class conflict.
Anarchists are committed to libertarian socialism and they have focused on local organization, including locally managed cooperatives, linked through confederations of successful cooperatives, services, housing and communities. Marxists, who as socialists have likewise held and worked for the goal of democratizing productive and reproductive relationships, often placed a greater strategic emphasis on confronting the larger scales of human organization. As they viewed the capitalist class to be prohibitively politically, militarily and culturally mobilized in order to maintain an exploitable working class, they fought in the early 20th century to appropriate from the capitalist class the society's collective political capacity in the form of the state, either through democratic socialism, or through what came to be known as Leninism.
Though they regard the state as an unnecessarily oppressive institution, Marxists considered appropriating national and international-scale capitalist institutions and resources (such as the state) to be an important first pillar in creating conditions favorable to solidaristic economies. With the declining influence of the USSR after the 1960s, socialist strategies pluralized, though economic democratizers have not as yet established a fundamental challenge to the hegemony of global neoliberal capitalism.
In the final year of the 20th century, cooperatives banded together to establish a number of social enterprise agencies which have moved to adopt the multi-stakeholder cooperative model. In the last 15 years (1994–2009) the EU and its member nations, have gradually revised national accounting systems to "make visible" the increasingly successful contribution of social economy organizations.
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit. Cooperatives are defined by the International Cooperative Alliance's Statement on the Cooperative Identity as autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises. A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or by the people who work there. Cooperative enterprises are the focus of study in the field of cooperative economics. The concept is not without its problems.
Tribute to Plymouth & South West Co-operative Society | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Plymouth & South West Co-operative Society merged with The Co-operative Group on September 6th 2009 | For more information visit The Co-operative Group corporate website.