Worker Control in Worker Co-operatives?

Spear, Roger and Thomas, Alan (2015). Worker Control in Worker Co-operatives? Journal of Co-operative Studies, 48 No 1(143) pp. 6–19.



This paper (presented at ICA Research Conference, Paris, May, 2015) is based on research conducted in the 1980s. It has been updated, and addresses the timeless questions: if worker co-operatives embody the principle “Labour hires Capital”, does this mean that in co-operatives workers are able to control their own jobs? Can new work relations be constructed from grassroots in a democratic fashion? It is based on five case studies, which present possibly the most challenges to a positive response to these questions. The paper develops a theory based analytical framework embracing three different levels of control, and identifying four factors limiting worker influence: expert power, imported rationalities and expectations, external financing, market relations. Given these “worst case” scenarios, the findings demonstrate achievements regarding work organisation, different forms of supervision, and terms and conditions of employment.

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