Economic Update: Enabling Worker Coops

On this week's episode of Economic Update, Prof. Richard Wolff presents updates on capitalism and Earth Day, Chinese movie industry overtakes Hollywood, small businesses use cooperatives to...READ MORE

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  • Elizabeth Oakes
    commented 2017-05-05 18:24:17 -0400
    You are just terrific Rick. I just started listening. I’ve learned alot already. Keep it up !
    Betsy Oakes
  • Stefan Olsson
    commented 2017-04-30 14:26:15 -0400
    Dear Prof Wolff,
    Coming from Sweden were we have a great tradition of co-ops I must comment on your last program where you talked about small business cooperatives. In Sweden, now long time ago in the beginning of last century, workers (consumers) joined together and started their own co-op grocery/food and everything for everyday life shops since the local shops were too expensive. The wholesaler and the factories saw that they undercut the existing shops so they tried to boycott these consumer co-ops. Then the consumer co-ops joined together and organized their own wholesale and their own factories. The small shop-owners was seriously hit by this but they found out that they could do the same and also started their co-ops to organize a co-operatively owned wholesale organization that could negotiate and order things from the manufacturers or get good prices at markets. Thus these small businesses could compete with both large businesses and also with the consumer co-ops. I have personally been involved in co-op organizations of different kinds (housing co-ops and also consumer co-ops selling high quality vegetables from small farmers). Co-ops is in theory a very fine idea were power should go from bottom and upward. The problem is that after a while the top in the organization does not like to be governed from below and tries all tricks in the book (and sometimes also illegal tricks) to get more power and the organisation slowly change to a top-down organisation like any company, with high wages and other rewards to the tops and an interest to serve the rich since they stand for an alternative well paid job-market (in a similar way as often happens in so called democracies). Thus there is a real problem to organize and run co-ops in the intended way in a capitalistic surrounding.

    Thank you also for your excellent lectures I have listened to on the internet. Your way of lecturing is a great inspiration. It might interest you that I am now a “scientific refugee” to China were I can get resources for basic research in cell biology with focus on microbiology-mycology while the majority of the universities in the west are dismantling their basic research. Instead researchers are forced to do applied research that some private company might be interested in. If you do not comply you get no resources and risk being redundant next time the University have to save. Not that the companies gives much money. It is in principle a way for the government to give money and subsidise especially large companies by helping them to do research they would maybe have done anyway. Now the government take the risk (the project grant) and the companies gets the patents if something profitable is developed (this is also general for EU funded research even if there is on paper a will to support small businesses). It is a type of PPP. It looks like China is aiming for the higher education market at the high quality end. For a very reasonable price it is now possible for poor but ambitious students from any country to go to China, get a top education and come out with a very competitive PhD with very little debt if any (there are a lot of Chinese grants available also for foreigners). I cannot however comment on the political situation in China since I do not speak Chinese yet, but people here are very open and seem to discuss everything when they gather, also with strangers. I have not either been in a place where everyone is so eager to help each-other and also help foreigners whatever country they come from.

    Best wishes from China were curiosity driven basic research without ties to companies is encouraged and even demanded!
    Stefan Olsson, Professor, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, China