Cooperatives, Unions, and Economic Democracy

Joseph Persky

in The Political Economy of Progress

Published in print July 2016 | ISBN: 9780190460631
Published online June 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780190460662 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in History of Economics

Cooperatives, Unions, and Economic Democracy

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The key argument of this volume is that Mill saw laissez-faire capitalism as a transitional state. For Mill the concrete manifestation of this transition was to be found in the rise of cooperative production facilities. In the new economy, Mill anticipated that the material and psychological independence of workers would be built on the emergence of a substantive cooperative movement. As education raised workers’ capacities and expectations, those workers would be increasingly unsuited for the mindless subservience of the capitalist employment relationship. Although as a young man Mill had argued against the economics of Owen and Thompson, after the French Revolution of 1848 Mill consistently moved to the left, making a radical case for cooperatives. He rejected independent proprietorship as inefficient, profitsharing as a half measure unlikely to satisfy the working classes, and nationalization as mind-numbing and bureaucratic. Mill looked forward to unions becoming focal points of cooperative development.

Keywords: Mill; cooperatives; Owen; Thompson; French Revolution of 1848; independent proprietorship; profitsharing; nationalization; trade unions

Chapter.  7875 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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