Essential reading on co-ops: What’s coming up in 2019

There are important books coming up this year on food, trade, education and civic activism

With uncertain climates ahead – politically and environmentally – authors from every continent are asking what this means for them, their communities and society at large. From a co-operative perspective, this includes working together to ensure community security and alternatives to the mainstream, and exploring what education, development and solidarity will look like in the decades to come.

In this context, three of the books we’re most looking forward to in 2019 focus on food.

In the summer of 2017, Co-op News interviewed Jon Steinman, author, broadcaster and member of the Kootenay Co-op, a consumer food co-op in Nelson, British Colombia, who was kickstarting a project to look at how local economies are positively impacted by community food co-ops.

“If we want to have a long-term grocery store that supplies communities with good food, the most resilient model is the co-op model,” he said at the time. In May 2019, this work is coming together in Grocery Story (New Society Publishers, 2019), which will challenge readers to “put the power of food co-ops on your plate and grow your local food economy”.

Canadian food co-ops are also the subject of The Co-op Revolution (Caitlin Press, 2019), in which author and journalist Jan DeGrass writes about her journey as a founding member of the Vancouver-based Collective Resource and Services Workers’ Co-op. In the late 1970s, CRS Co-op became one of the most successful co-ops in British Colombia, and was committed to co-operation and worker ownership. “For some,” she writes, “the co-op movement was about crushing capitalism; for others it was simply about buying cheap, wholesome food from people they trusted and living in communal camaraderie.
No matter the pursuit, co-operation was the answer.”

Case studies exploring the idea of using conscientious eating, shopping, and selling as tools for civic activism feature in Maria McGrath’s Food for Dissent (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019). She charts the growth of the natural foods movement from its countercultural fringe beginning to its 21st century ‘food revolution’ ascendance.

Alongside food we’ll be reading about how the introduction of co-operative societies into the Irish countryside during the late-19th century transformed rural society and created an enduring economic legacy (Civilising Rural Ireland, Patrick Doyle, Manchester University Press, 2019); how global trade can be made to serve people not money (Trading for Good, Christian Felber, Zed Books, 2019); and the role of co-operative education (Learning for a co-operative world: Education, Social Change and the Co-operative College, Ed. Tom Woodin and Linda Shaw, UCL, 2019) in a book to to be published as part of the Co-operative College’s centenary celebrations.

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