Agricultural cooperatives remaining competitive in a globalised food system: At what cost to members, the cooperative movement and food sustainability?

Raquel Ajates (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)
    864 Downloads (Pure)


    There are more than 40,000 agricultural cooperatives in Europe with 9 million farmer members and over 600,000 workers. Due to the democratic nature of the cooperative form, it is assumed agricultural cooperatives empower their members and allow small farmers to have a stronger voice in the supply chain. However, much of the academic literature on agricultural cooperatives focuses on the economic analysis of their performance, while hardly any research has been done on analysing the impact that policy, long supply chains and the internationalisation of the food system have on members and labour dimensions. This article contributes to covering this gap by analysing how agricultural cooperatives are being shaped and misshaped by European farming policy and the architecture of global food systems. Following Schneiberg’s thesis on social movements being a condition for processes of diffusion and mutualism, this article reflects on critical issues in organisational studies related to agricultural cooperatives, the cooperative movement and sustainable food systems. Case studies from Spain and United Kingdom are used to illustrate the Northern and Southern European perspective. The concept of deviant mainstreaming is applied to discuss how agricultural cooperatives are being co-opted and losing their transformative potential as a result of pressures to remain competitive, with effects on members, social justice and the environment. The findings suggest policy changes at the European level, and the increasing internationalisation of the food system is fuelling the amalgamation of agricultural cooperatives, which is threatening their local embeddedness and creating organisational tensions between the local, co-operative space and the global, capitalist space.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)337-355
    Number of pages19
    Issue number2
    Early online date27 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


    • Agricultural cooperatives
    • deviant mainstreaming
    • diffusion
    • farmer members
    • farming policy
    • food ustainability
    • social movements
    • Spain
    • United Kingdom
    • food sustainability

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Business,Management and Accounting
    • Management of Technology and Innovation
    • Strategy and Management


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