HOW CO-OPERATIVE ARE SOCIAL CO-OPERATIVES?
Palabras clave:co-operative concept, self-help organization, general interest organization, hybrid organization, legal framework
There is a trend — promoted by advocates of a social economy — to use co-operatives as instruments for serving the general interest and providing goods and services of public utility, not as an effect of successful co-operative work, but as
an object of new social or “general interest co-operatives”. It is ignored that co-operatives are basically self-help organizations which derive their internal strength from combined self-interest of their members. In this paper it is shown how
international organizations and national lawmakers try to create legal frameworks in which co-operatives can develop their activities for the benefit of their members and in general interest, based on examples from Italy, France, Portugal, Spain,
Quebec/Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Republic of Korea (as a most recent example). The author tries to locate different types of co-operatives existing in the countries under review on a continuum between self-help organizations and general interest organizations. Based on an analysis of type- specific elements of co-operative structure, problems are analyzed which result from deviations from the ‘classical’ and tested model of co-operative society. It
is discussed, how co-operative development can be promoted by introducing new forms of co-operatives and new structural elements and by government support. The conclusion is that only with a clear profile as self-help organizations serving
not exclusively but mainly their members can co-operatives succed in facing the challenges of social, economic and technological change