Syllabus: UMass’ The Economics of Cooperative Enterprises

A collaboration between the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives and UMass Amherst students and faculty, the UMass Amherst Cooperative Enterprises Collaborative (UMCEC) is dedicated to further learning and research...

A collaboration between the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives and UMass Amherst students and faculty, the UMass Amherst Cooperative Enterprises Collaborative (UMCEC) is dedicated to further learning and research about worker cooperatives, and to foster partnerships between academics and cooperators in the Pioneer Valley.


Economics 397EC


Spring 2011

Professor Friedman

Professor Friedman’s office is 1002 Thompson

office hours: MW 10:30- 12:00  and by appointment.

EMail: [email protected]

Matthew Denny is the course TA.  He will be holding office hours (time and place TBA) and is available by email at [email protected].

Economics 397 introduces the economic analysis of cooperative management.  This course syllabus was designed by the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Enterprise Collaborative, including members of the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives (VAWC) as well as faculty and graduate students from the Economics Department and elsewhere in the University of Massachusetts. We are also in the process of developing a related internship program and Applied Economic Research Certificate which students completing this course, as well as other requirements, will be eligible to participate in.

The course is organized around four central questions that should also inform the final project—a business plan for a cooperative enterprise:

  1. How do cooperatives and worker-owned businesses challenge or complement the capitalist system?
  2. Can cooperatives and worker-owned businesses produce better outcomes for workers, consumers, the environment, and society as a whole?
  3. Can cooperatives and worker-owned businesses successfully compete with capitalist firms?
  4. Will cooperation replace capitalism?


20% of grade: Weekly short responses (beginning with the 2nd week) to the readings online via SPARK plus comments on at least one other person’s responses.  (You can skip one week without penalty.) Your comments, two paragraphs, about 100-200 words, should be posted by Wednesday with responses by Friday. These will be graded on a pass-fail basis.  Questions will be posted on the SPARK site as starting points for your comments.

10% of grade: Two brief presentations to the class (no more than five minutes) on a supplemental reading, video or audio presentation. The supplemental materials are listed on the syllabus after the required readings and presentations should generally be made on those marked with a star *. You may work with a partner on these presentations.  Your grade will be based on the presentation and on your written notes – either in text or powerpoint.  We will begin scheduling these immediately.

40% of grade: 4 quizzes (10% each). Two will be in class, no more than 25 minutes each with short responses to questions drawn from the readings and relevant to the five questions outlined above. The other two will be take-home with longer essay questions also drawn from the readings. 

30% of grade:  A final project, consisting of a detailed business plan for a cooperative enterprise. You should be able to draw from your weekly shortly responses and quizzes in completing this final project. 5% will be based on a first presentation, the rest (25%) on your final presentation and plan.

You may work collaboratively on this final project with as many as two other students, or you may work on your own.

Required readings are available on SPARK except:

Erbin Crowell. “The Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives: Exploring the Potential of Co-op Led Development.” Masters Thesis. St. Mary’s University, 2010. Pages 1-80. [80 pp]

You should purchase a copy of this at Collective Copies, a worker-owned cooperative located at 71 South Pleasant Street in downtown Amherst.

John Restakis, Humanizing the Economy: Co-Operatives in the Age of Capital. 

Available from Food for Thought Books, in at 106 North Pleasant Street downtown Amherst MA.

Dow, Gregory. Governing the Firm: Workers’ Control in Theory and Practice . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003

Available as an EBook from the UMass library.

Web resources: 

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