The philosophy that inspired the cooperative movement was political. It sought to put the means of production and consumption under the control of the people who formed voluntary associations. The latter were managed and run by the members themselves. There was no outside management controlling these voluntary bodies.
The primary aim of these voluntary associations was to eliminate the unwholesome competition between the members and to foster an egalitarian outlook on life by securing equality by distributing profits among the members at regular intervals.
The cooperative movement is a totally unique experiment in that it is neither based on private property nor on a division between capital and labour. However, Marxists have scornfully dismissed it as an impossible idea. In their opinion, common ownership is merely an appearance and in reality it never comes to fruition.
The movement began exactly in 1844 in the West and was an attempt to realise the ideas of some visionaries within the framework of the 19th century retarded capitalism. The movement did have some progress in the early phase but began stagnating soon.
While in England it shriveled into a real estate business, it turned into a limited commodity production on the continent. It is a pity that the movement that began as an object of profound admiration is now seen as an insignificant part of the present capitalist arrangement.
Israel’s kibbutz is often cited as a great example of what can be achieved through the cooperative movement. Kibbutz is a cooperative agricultural settlement which is supposed to be socialist and egalitarian in its internal organisation. A form of commune living is celebrated in kibbutz. But overtime because of Israel’s special geo-political requirements Kibbutz was converted into a means of maintaining some active military presence in the Israeli countryside.
Thus even a fleeting look at the career of the cooperative movement reveals that the movement has unraveled and it would be impossible to revive it to a level where it could begin even slightly influencing the world economy.