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Interpreting the Roles and Economic Importance of Cooperative Enterprises in a Historical Perspective


  • Vera Negri Zamagni

    () (University of Bologna)


Cooperative enterprises have been in existence in all fields of economic activity for around 200 years, but they have tended to bunch in some sectors. This paper will examine which sectors have the most cooperatives at a world level, attempt to sketch out a typology and enquire into the reasons for this bunching. There are essentially four cooperative forms: Users cooperatives, Producers cooperatives,Workers cooperatives, and Social or community cooperatives. While workers cooperatives have received a disproportionate amount of attention from the theoretical literature, I argue that historically this has been the least successful type of cooperative and only recently has seen some revival in the service sector. The role of capital, management styles and intrinsic motivations will be considered to explain this historical evidence. The final section of the paper is devoted to drawing lessons from the historical material analyzed in the paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Vera Negri Zamagni, 2012. "Interpreting the Roles and Economic Importance of Cooperative Enterprises in a Historical Perspective," Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity, European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises, vol. 1(1), pages 21-36, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:trn:csnjrn:v:1:i:1:p:21-36

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carlo Borzaga, 2013. "Social enterprise," Chapters, in: Luigino Bruni & Stefano Zamagni (ed.),Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise, chapter 32, pages 318-326, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Patrizia Battilani & Vera Zamagni, 2012. "The managerial transformation of Italian co-operative enterprises 1946--2010," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 54(6), pages 964-985, October.
    3. Carlo Borzaga & Sara Depedri & Ermanno Tortia, 2009. "The role of cooperative and social enterprises: A multifaceted approach for an economic pluralism," Euricse Working Papers 0900, Euricse (European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises).
    4. Menzani, Tito & Zamagni, Vera, 2010. "Cooperative Networks in the Italian Economy," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 98-127, March.
    5. Becchetti, Leonardo & Castriota, Stefano & Tortia, Ermanno, 2009. "Productivity, wages and intrinsic motivation in social enterprises," AICCON Working Papers 66-2009, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
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    Cited by:

    1. Musson, Anne & Rousselière, Damien, 2018. "Exploring the effect of crisis on cooperatives: A Bayesian performance analysis of French craftsmen cooperatives," Working Papers 279350, Institut National de la recherche Agronomique (INRA), Departement Sciences Sociales, Agriculture et Alimentation, Espace et Environnement (SAE2).
    2. Maged Eid & Federico Mart�nez-Carrasco Pleite, 2014. "International Year of Cooperatives and the 2020 Vision," Euricse Working Papers 1471, Euricse (European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises).
    3. Chiara Carini & Ericka Costa, 2013. "Exploring the performance of social cooperatives during the economic crisis: the Italian case," Euricse Working Papers 1359, Euricse (European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises).
    4. Fabio Sabatini & Francesca Modena & Ermanno Tortia, 2014. "Do cooperative enterprises create social trust?," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 621-641, March.
    5. Kotyza, P. & Tomšík, K., 2014. "Effects of Public Support on Producer Groups Establishment in the Czech Republic and Slovakia," AGRIS on-line Papers in Economics and Informatics, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Faculty of Economics and Management, vol. 6(2), pages 1-11, June.
    6. Izaidin Abdul Majid & Aziz Latif & Wei-Loon Koe, 2017. "SMEs’ Intention towards Sustainable Entrepreneurship," European Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies Articles, European Center for Science Education and Research, vol. 2, EJMS Janu.
    7. Tae-Hwan Kim & Hoon Hong & Jonghyun Park & Chung Sik Yoo & Jongick Jang, 2017. "Statistical Estimation of the Casual Effect of Scoial Economy on Subjective Well-Being," Working papers 2017rwp-104, Yonsei University, Yonsei Economics Research Institute.
    8. Franck Bailly & Karine Chapelle & Lionel Prouteau, 2017. "What are the determinants of the pay gap between conventional firms and cooperatives? Evidence from France," Working Papers hal-01455741, HAL.
    9. Ericka Costa & Chiara Carini, 2016. "Northern and southern Italian social cooperatives during the economic crisis: a multiple factor analysis," Service Business, Springer;Pan-Pacific Business Association, vol. 10(2), pages 369-392, June.
    10. Marcelo Vieta, 2015. "The Italian Road to Creating Worker Cooperatives from Worker Buyouts: Italy�s Worker-Recuperated Enterprises and the Legge Marcora Framework," Euricse Working Papers 1578, Euricse (European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises).

    More about this item


    cooperative enterprises; worker cooperatives; users cooperatives; instrinsic motivations; historical evidence;

    JEL classification:

    • J54 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Producer Cooperatives; Labor Managed Firms
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N60 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N80 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • P13 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Cooperative Enterprises


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