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On the Nature of a Cooperative: A System of Attributes Perspective

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  • Feng, Li
  • Hendrikse, George W.J.
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    Abstract

    In the 1950s and 1960s there was a debate about the nature of an agricultural cooperative: the cooperative as extension of the farm, the cooperative as vertical integration or the cooperative as a firm. We revisit this debate with various concepts from the theory of the firm that have been formulated since 1990. Two concepts shed light on this debate: the enterprise as a system of attributes and the delineation of a governance structure in terms of ownership rights, control rights and income rights. We argue that viewing the cooperative as a system of attributes integrates these three views. It emphasizes that a cooperative is a firm in itself, with many independent input suppliers as owners. The feature of many input suppliers as owners implies that the behavioral differences between a cooperative and an investor owned firm have to be addressed by highlighting the unique aspects of the stakeholder owning the enterprise.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by European Association of Agricultural Economists in its series 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium with number 44398.

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    Date of creation: 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:ags:eaae08:44398

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    Keywords: Agribusiness;

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    1. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
    2. Brickley, James A, 1999. "Incentive Conflicts and Contractual Restraints: Evidence from Franchising," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 745-74, October.
    3. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    4. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1996. "The Governance of Exchanges: Members' Co-operatives Versus Outside Ownership," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series /1996/292, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    5. Hendrikse, George W. J. & Veerman, Cees P., 2001. "Marketing cooperatives and financial structure: a transaction costs economics analysis," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 26(3), pages 205-216, December.
    6. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
    7. Hendrikse, G.W.J. & Smit, R., 2007. "On the Evolution of Product Portfolio Coherence of Cooperatives versus Corporations: An Agent-Based Analysis of the Single Origin Constraint," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2007-055-ORG, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus Uni.
    8. Cook, Michael L., 1994. "The Role of Management Behavior in Agricultural Cooperatives," Journal of Agricultural Cooperation, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, vol. 9.
    9. Hansmann, Henry, 1988. "Ownership of the Firm," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 267-304, Fall.
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