Worker Co-ops Then and Now

Dear Prof. Wolff, I'm very interested in your presentations about worker co-ops and agree that being a worker in a co-op is much preferable to working for a capitalist enterprise. Can you address why you think there is an opportunity now for worker co-ops to thrive and proliferate and become a true alternative to the mainstream, or even the new mainstream, as opposed to the 1960s and 70s which also saw a wave of worker co-ops spring up all over the USA? Most of these worker co-ops all too quickly faded away as their members burned out, moved on and, probably most important, capitalist enterprises took over producing the coops' products at lower prices, thereby putting the co-ops out of business.

Official response from submitted

The opportunity is far greater now chiefly because, since the 2008 crash and the failure of recovery since then (except for the richest 3-5%), millions are disillusioned and disappointed by the capitalist system. That is, they increasingly grasp that particular problems (student debts, grotesque inequalities of income and wealth, corruption of politics by money, poverty, ecological decay, etc.) are better understood as symptoms of a general disease, namely capitalism's profit-driven subordination of other social values and needs to private profit maximization. Seeing capitalism as the problem provokes thought and action toward identifying and then pursuing systemic alternatives. Right now, worker coops are the systemic alternative to capitalistically organized workplaces and work processes, so they get the attention and support of the increasing number disaffected from capitalism.

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  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-01-16 15:56:59 -0500
  • Irene Korenfield
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-16 12:32:10 -0500