Cooperation

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(From L. co, with and operacio, action). 1) Relationships formed in the process of joint activity, which stimulates and multiplies the results of common actions. C. presupposes shared interests and objectives and recognition of suitable means for achieving them in practical activity. In this sense it forms an essential part of the social and political activity of N.H. C. includes the interchange of experience and taking personal initiative by co-participants in a joint action. 2) Forms of collective production and group or collective ownership. The social movement known as cooperativeness uses a method of economic action through which people with common interests form an enterprise in which everyone shares equally in management and profits. The idea of converting this method of action into a social system (as a complex web of cooperatives for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods) experienced a boom in the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. Its influence was especially felt in the Anglo-Saxon countries, in small industry and agriculture, and to a lesser extent in the service sector. Projects to transform the whole of society on the basis of cooperative ownership (cooperative socialism) were distorted by certain practices, through which many of these organizations (which required credit and certain tax exemptions) were regulated, in such a way that they wound up being reorganized into conventional corporations. In other cases, State regulation transformed them into simple appendages of the political regime. Meanwhile, the general direction of scientific and technological development has tended to decrease the efficacy of this kind of system for management and distribution of profits. Even so, cooperative activity is highly developed in a number of countries, and there are cases of very efficient cooperatives of great complexity (for example, the Mondragón cooperative in Spain). In today’s world, we should not underestimate the importance of cooperatives in social life, and in keeping with these new times there is an ongoing revaluation of this model, adapted to the application of new technologies.