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Fighting the cooperative corner and creating third spaces of cooperation in food and farming

Ajates Gonzalez, R. Fighting the cooperative corner and creating third spaces of cooperation in food and farming. Paper presented at the The XXVI European Society for Rural Sociology Congress. Places of Possibility? Rural Societies in a Neoliberal World, 18-21 Aug 2015, Aberdeen, Scotland.


Cooperatives can be deconstructed into four components: legal form, governance model, social movement and informal cooperative behaviours that predate all other layers. In the case of agricultural cooperatives, this multifaceted character is increasingly being fragmented by the mainstream food system that is co-opting the less radical elements of cooperativism that can be easily absorbed without requiring a wider transformation of neoliberal industrial practices. This paper explores the activities of niche cooperatives in the UK and Spain experi-menting with creative models of governance, finance and multilevel crosscutting collaborations attempting to fight back and reduce the risk of appropriation by the dominant regime. Drawing from the anthropologi-cal concept of “third space” and the permaculture principle that commends us to “use edges and value the marginal”, I argue that these initiatives are creat-ing both real and symbolic spaces that foster growers’ and consumers’ self-efficacy to construct more inclusive and sustainable cooperative models. These social experiments not only disrupt and reframe the “professional agricultural cooperative” imaginary, but also reaffirm people’s infinite creativity to reinvent their food systems.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
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