Innovative Consumer Co-operatives : The Rise and Fall of Berkeley book cover
1st Edition

Innovative Consumer Co-operatives
The Rise and Fall of Berkeley

ISBN 9781138614109
Published May 5, 2020 by Routledge
272 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Consumer co-operatives provide a different approach to organizing business through their ideals of member ownership and democratic practice. Every co-operative member has an equal vote regardless of his or her own personal capital investment. The co-operative movement can also be an important force in promoting development and self-sufficiency in poorer areas, particularly in non-industrialised countries.

This book explores in depth the fortunes of the Berkeley Consumer Co-operative, which became the largest consumer co-operative in the United States with 116,000 members in 1984 and viewed nationally as a leader in innovative retail practices and a champion of consumer rights. The Berkeley Consumer Co-operative is promoted by both supporters and opponents of the co-operative business model as a significant example of what can go wrong with the co-operatives.

This book will provide the first in depth analysis of the history of the Berkeley Co-operative using its substantial but little used archives and oral histories to explore what the Berkeley experience means for the co-operative business model. The specific chapters relating to Berkeley will be organised around particular themes to highlight the issues relating to the co-operative business model and the local context of Berkeley. The themes relate to developments in Berkeley and the Bay Area in terms of the economy, politics and the retail environment; the management of the Berkeley co-operative, looking at governance, financial management and strategic decisions; relationship of management with members and employees; and finally, the relationship of the Berkeley Co-operative with the community.

The core message of the book is that it is not inevitable that consumer co-operatives fail, but that the story of Berkeley story can provide insights that can strengthen the co-operative business model and minimise failures on the scale of Berkeley occurring in the future.

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations

List of Tables

List of Illustrations

1. Consumer Co-operatives: Theory and Practice

2. International Consumer Co-operative Movement Before 1993

3. Consumer Co-operatives in the US before 1993

4. The Origins and Early Years of the Berkeley Co-operative until 1947

5. Gaining a Foothold: 1947-1961

6. Politics and Expansion: 1962-1971

7. Instability and Final Expansion: 1972-1980

8. Chaos and Collapse: 1981-1993

9. Conclusion


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Greg Patmore is Emeritus Professor of Business and Labour History at the University of Sydney Business School, Australia. ORCID: 0000-0001-7151-4381