Even though it’s hard to find good things to say about the recent economic recession and its consequences, one positive aspect of it is the renewed interest it sparked in consumer cooperatives.
The idea to write about this subject came to me after reading about cooperatives in Israel. The economic downturn and the social demonstrations that took place two summers ago have helped revive something that is a part of Israeli DNA. The idea of the socialist cooperative is at the root of the Kibbutzim movement, which had a big part in shaping the Israeli society into what it is today. With that said, those new cooperatives seem much better than the original ones. Alongside ideology of solidarity and social justice, the current cooperatives offer their members a great customer experience. Also, unlike the socialist cooperatives from a hundred years ago, they do not require members to give up their individual rights for the common good, but rather adopt a more liberal perspective.
So what is so great about consumer cooperatives?
First, cooperatives are able to offer their member cheaper prices. Even though they are usually much smaller then for-profit organizations, the fact that they do not strive to generate any revenue means that they can keep prices as low as possible.
Second, they are financially stable. Cooperatives rely on a relatively large number of people who only need to invest a small sum of money. Also, because of their structure, if one member decides to leave, it is simpler to find a replacement. That makes cooperatives much more likely to survive, in comparison to businesses that are owned by one or a few people.
Third and last, but certainly not least, cooperatives promote the values of social justice and solidarity among members of the community. These cooperatives show people that things can be done differently by aspiring to better the lives of their member rather than maximizing profits, and represent a model of social and economic equality.
Just like everything in life, balance is crucial here too. As I explained, the cooperative model benefits society and the economy. It helps build a strong and united society and a more durable and recession-proof economy. With that said, it is important to keep in mind that individuality is also a sacred value and that there is nothing wrong with people aspiring to achieve personal success and attain a better life for themselves.