IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The role of cooperative and social enterprises: A multifaceted approach for an economic pluralism

Listed author(s):
  • Carlo Borzaga
  • Sara Depedri
  • Ermanno Tortia

he role of cooperative and social enterprises in contemporary market economies has been downplayed and marginalised to date by the dominant economic approaches. This insufficient attention (Kalmi, 2008 su Cambridge Journal of Economics) derives from the limited applicability of the main assumptions of microeconomic to the case of cooperative and social enterprises. We mainly refer to models. the assumption of self-seeking individuals and of profit maximisation as the only possible firm objective. The mismatch between theoretical assumptions and empirical evidence has led to the underestimation of the growth potential, weight and role of cooperative and social enterprises. We maintain that the improvement of the scientific understanding of cooperative and social enterprises requires to enlarge and deepen the assumption of the relevant theoretical models. Individuals cannot be characterised any more as purely self-interested. Instead, the importance of motivational complexity, and the diverse nature of preferences needs to be introduced in the model as suggested by the behavioural approach. Furthermore, firms cannot be interpreted any more in an exclusive way as profit maximizers. They are instead coordination mechanisms of the economic activity, as suggested by the evolutionary approach. To this end they develop specific organisational routines, and their objectives can be diverse, ranging from purely private appropriation, to mutual benefit based on reciprocity, to public benefit aim supported by other-regarding preferences. (Le teorie economiche dominanti, ed in particolare l’approccio ortodosso e quello neo-istituzionalista, hanno sottostimato e marginalizzato il ruolo delle cooperative e delle imprese sociali nei mercati economici contemporanei. L’insufficiente attenzione a queste organizzazioni deriva principalmente dall’impossibilità di applicare ad esse le assunzioni principali della teoria microeconomica ortodossa, ossia la presenza di individui auto-interessati e di organizzazioni che puntino solo alla massimizzazione del profitto. Anche la teoria neo-istituzionalista non riesce a spiegare la presenza e la crescita del ruolo ricoperto da cooperative e imprese sociali. Per questa ragione, il presente paper è volto a dimostrare come, per spiegare il ruolo di cooperative ed imprese sociali da un punto di vista scientifico, i principali modelli teorici economici debbano essere estesi. Innanzitutto, tanto gli individui quanto le istituzioni non possono essere più assunti come soggetti meramente egoistici, ma ne vanno studiate la complessità motivazionale e le strutture di preferenze, così come proposto dalla teoria comportamentale (behavioural economics). Inoltre, le imprese devono essere concepite come meccanismi di coordinamento delle attività economiche, come suggerito dall’approccio evoluzionista, e devono quindi esserne analizzate le specifiche routine organizzative sviluppate al loro interno e gli obiettivi organizzativi, i quali possono variare tra gli interessi di appropriazione privata dei profitti ed obiettivi pro-sociali sostenuti da preferenze altruistiche.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Euricse (European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises) in its series Euricse Working Papers with number 0900.

in new window

Date of creation: 2009
Handle: RePEc:trn:utwpeu:0900
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Via S.Giovanni 36 - 38122 Trento (TN)

Phone: +39 0461 882289
Fax: +39 0461 882294
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:trn:utwpeu:0900. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sara Depedri)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.