Co-operative practitioners and academics recognize that the movement and the institution will endure in an increasingly competitive and individualistic world only if we are able to identify and sustain elements central to their distinctiveness. Advocates of co-operatives in their “purist” form point to the principles as the mechanism to ensure that co-operatives will continue to exist in a form and with functions distinctive from privately-owned or investor-owned firms.
This is an important objective. The downside, however, is that the rigidity that must accompany this goal may prevent many who are interested in the co-operative model of organization from pursuing it further when they run up against those in positions of authority who refuse to consider modifications to the model. And the movement therefore risks losing an important source of new supporters.
As co-operative practitioners and researchers, should we insist upon imposing on others the Eurocentric model that currently exists in Canada, derived as it is out of the specific needs and aspirations of the Rochdale Pioneers of the 1840s? Perhaps there are other aspects contributing to the distinctiveness of co-operatives that might draw new members and developers who possess a different cultural viewpoint, which would ultimately serve to sustain or expand the movement.