An integrated conceptual framework for the study of agricultural cooperatives: from repolitisation to cooperative sustainability

Raquel Ajates (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Agricultural cooperatives (ACs) are major players in European farming, where they account for 40–60% of agricultural trade, and are key actors in articulating rural realities. This paper offers a solidary critique of ACs beyond the dominant institutional economics lens, and aims to resume the debate on their de/repoliticisation. Evidence presented points towards a continuous process of co-optation of ACs by the dominant food regime as well as decreased adherence to cooperative principles, revealing theoretical parallelisms with the organic and fair trade movements. While acknowledging the important role ACs play in supporting farmers, many of who interviewed for this research reported they could not survive without them, this paper warns of the loss of their historical political roots, and introduces a new theoretical framework for a more integrated study of ACs in the context of wider food system forces. The framework is composed of three conceptual components: first, the coooperative triangle illustrates interwoven cooperative identitary dimensions; second, the cooperative hourglass depicts ongoing tensions between the cooperative economic and governance model, and the market economy they exist in; and third, the concept of cooperative sustainability brings together the previous two components to analyse ACs' ability and capacity to maintain the dimensions indicated in the cooperative triangle while also fostering environmental sustainability through their practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-479
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Volume78
Early online date1 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Agricultural cooperatives
  • Cooperative sustainability
  • cooperative hourglass
  • Repolitisation
  • Epistemological biases
  • Cooperative movement
  • Food policy

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