Cooperative work : An Achievement of the Ideal of Self-Managed Economy?

Abstract : The cooperative principles, which express the values of social and solidarity economy, convey an ideal vision of the working experience, based on emancipation, solidarity, democracy, and responsibility. Cooperatives as we know them exist since the end of the nineteenth century. However, we have been witnessing a « cooperative renewal » in recent years, characterized by the creation of new of legal forms, an increase in the number of cooperatives, and an institutional recognition. In France, two new forms of cooperatives have recently be created : the SCOP (workers cooperative) and the SCIC (Multistakeholder Social Cooperative), and the law of 2014 has acknowledged the existence of social ans solidarity economy as a specific part of the economy. However, the question of work in the organizations of the social and solidarity economy has mostly been analyzed from the point of view of ressources hybridation : coexistence of paid ans unpaid/volunteer work, (Simonet, 2010), volunteers’ professionalization (Codello, 2012). In parallel, new modes of work organization have emerged recently (third places, collaborative economy, fab-labs), which are also referring to economic diversity and a hybridation of resources and draw the scholar’s attention (Lallement, 2015, Vidaillet et Bousalham, 2017). Along the same line as these scholars, we propose to explore how the recent re appropriation of the cooperative ideals, in a context of disruption of social work organization, affects the experience and concrete organization of work. The paper is based on two case studies, comparing two cooperatives involved in the food sector. Beyond a common purpose, defined as the will to implement an alternatif food retailing system, these two organizations claim an ideal of citizen/worker self-managed economy, and a hybridation of working forming (including in particular the participation of the consumer in the production and retailing process). However, the implementation of the cooperative ideals leads to two very different work organizations. First, we present the self-management ideal carried by the two cooperatives in their founder’s discourses. Then we analyse the working forms that are implemented, in relation to the following issues : -What relation to hierarchy do these cooperatives develop (figures of authority ans forms of subordination) (figures d’autorité et formes de subordination) ? -How are the posts assignes to the workers? How are the different tanks and professions structured (work division, specialization and coordination)? -What is the relation to time in the cooperatives (working time and leisure time, work intensity)? -Which forms of remuneration, of economic and symbolic recognition are put into practice? Third, we analyse the experience lived by the cooperative members at work (meaning of work, satisfaction and quality of life in the workplace), but also what these organizations tell us about the « cooperative renewal » and its emancipating potential. The compared analysis of these two case studies tenables us to identify two forms of work organizations, which question the récent évolution of coopérative modèles and their relation to the workers’ self-management ideal. Finally we discuss the centrality of wage labour as a core value of our societies. In the two cases, the cooperative members put into question the centrality of work and especially of full time salaried work (the idea is to reduce the importance given to work in people’s life) and are looking for an independant, emancipatory and meaningful activity. However, the cooperatives do not give the same answer to this aspiration : two types of answers have been identified : In the first case, the participation of the cooperative members takes place alongside their paid job : they work for the cooperative as volunteers. It is an unpaid work, meaningful for the person, which contributes to improve her consumption practices. The model of work within the cooperative is nonpolitical and is mostly based on an individual, personal commitment. The concrete work organization reproduces the classical schemes of salaried work. In the second case, the cooperative aims at transforming the relation to work of its members. The goal is to transform one’s activity, with a critical approach towards the classical, salaried work organization. The concrete work organization puts into practice the notion of horizontality, non-specialization, diminution of working hours is oriented towards a model of political, collective action.
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Conference papers
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https://hal-upec-upem.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02171714
Contributor : Hajar El Karmouni <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 3, 2019 - 10:43:23 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 18, 2019 - 2:50:03 PM

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Hajar El Karmouni, Marion Maignan. Cooperative work : An Achievement of the Ideal of Self-Managed Economy?. Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE), Jun 2019, New York, United States. ⟨hal-02171714⟩

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