Is worker cooperation 'flatlining' in the UK?

Co-operatives UK says it has about 170 workers' cooperatives in membership, out of about 400 that it knows of in the country, mainly small enterprises.These figures have been consistent for a few years.

Here are a few Saturday morning thoughts on the subject.



The movement here has a habit of talking about cooperation in general as if its main purpose was changing distribution ('fairness') and consumption ('sustainability') - including the 'consumption' of work. 'We're all consumers now' - encouraged to identify as empowered influencers of the marketplace. This is ideological. I don't believe most workers buy it, since most of them have limited or pretty much prescribed/proscribed consumption choices. The flip side is that in the UK we've neglected to propagandise about producer cooperation  (other than agri/horticulturalists) - although we do bang on a lot about reproducers ('communities').

When workers co-operate with each other, it often means withdrawing their cooperation with the work system as generally understood. In other words, not all cooperation is good for us. Yet, we're a reflexively cooperative species. The work system is profitable because people tend to want to creatively strive, and therefore over-deliver on their employment contracts. In most contexts, that means workers are cutting their own throats.

If some or all of this is true, we have to work out how to talk about it.