Nick Dyer-Witheford

Commons and Cooperatives

An examination of the worker cooperative as an example of a labour commons. The authors suggest that the radical potential of co-ops can be extended by connecting with other commons struggles.

In the last decade, the commons has become a prevalent theme in discussions about collective but decentralized control over resources. This paper is a preliminary exploration of the potential linkages between commons and cooperatives through a discussion of the worker cooperative as one example of a labour commons.
We view the worker coop as a response at once antagonistic and accommodative to capitalism. This perspective is amplified through a consideration of five aspects of an ideal-type worker cooperativism: associated labour, workplace democracy, surplus distribution, cooperation among cooperatives, and, controversially, links between worker cooperatives and socialist states. We conclude by suggesting that the radical potential of worker cooperatives might be extended, theoretically and practically, by elaborating connections with other commons struggles in a process we term the circulation of the common. read more »

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