The co-operative approach to peace

Book review:  Concern for community: The relevance of co-operatives to peace by Yehudah Paz and Ian MacPherson Yehudah Paz and Ian MacPherson’s book on the role of co-operation...

Book review: 

Concern for community: The relevance of co-operatives to peace by Yehudah Paz and Ian MacPherson

Yehudah Paz and Ian MacPherson’s book on the role of co-operation in peace building and social cohesion examines how the seventh co-operative principle – concern for community – can be interpreted as a co-operative commitment to making peace.

It is the second volume of a series on co-operatives and peace. The first, Co-operatives and the Pursuit of Peace (2007), came out of an international conference at the University of Victoria, Canada, in 2006. The event was organised with support from the university’s British Columbia Institute for Co-operative Studies (BCICS), where MacPherson was director.

While the first book included presentations from the conference, the second volume looks at the essence of the co-operative approach to peace. Both authors had witnessed the impact of co-operatives in peace building.

Born in New York in 1930, Yehudah Paz emigrated to Israel in 1950, where he helped found Kibbutz Kissufim, an agro-industrial, multi-purpose co-operative village in Negev. In 1998 he helped establish an Arab-Jewish centre for equality, empowerment and co-operation, the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development. This non-profit organisation, based in Israel’s Negev, is dedicated to strengthening active citizenship through education and economic empowerment.

Ian MacPherson worked with indigenous communities in Arctic Canada, promoting co-operation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people through the Social Economy Hub, which he co-directed.

The two passed away in 2013 within ten days of each other. Joy Emmanuel, who was involved in organising the 2006 conference and co-edited the first book with MacPherson, completed their work after receiving the manuscripts from their families.

“Ian and Yehudah shared a common bond in their passion for co-operatives,” she writes in the book’s foreword, “but their particular relationship drew on a second deep well: their common commitment to nurture what they saw as the inherent link between co-operatives and creating more just, peaceful societies.

“The potential for co-operatives and the co-operative movement to play a significant role on the stage of world history in this respect was abundantly evident to them both and is reflected in their writings.”

The authors believed that co-operatives were still relevant in peace-making  and sustainable development and used concrete examples of how co-ops are contributing. In his correspondence with Paz, MacPherson described the second volume as a blend of activism and academic enquiry.

The study saw the two analyse the contemporary situation of world politics using case studies to explain why the co-operative approach to peace building matters.

In 1995 the principle concern for community was added as the seventh co-operative principle. MacPherson and Paz believed this commitment to community was important to understanding how co-operatives had contributed to the creation of a more peaceful world.

The book explains how peace building happens in communities and not on battlefields. Co-operatives help by enabling communities to pursue mutually beneficial goals and encourage consensus; they foster the conciliation process, enabling people with differences to work and live together.

The two authors also explore the relevance of unity of diversity – and diversity within unity – which they say co-operatives help develop.

“By peace building we refer to a range of practices from every-day activities involved in the running of a co-operative and expressing the co-operative principles in daily operations; to inter-regional, inter-agency, people-to-people peace-making processes where political agents and civil society players, such as co-operatives, work together to resolve violent conflicts and rebuild communities,” they write.

They also make the case for the inclusion of co-operatives in the thinking about conflict resolution and argue that on a practical level co-ops should have a voice in peace-making negotiations.

In his guest foreword, former Co-operative College principal Mervyn Wilson puts forward the idea that peace is not just the absence of war. He explains how this helps understand the wider vision of co-operative education for a better world.

“The collection of initiatives that Ian and Yehudah were working on until both passed away is testimony to the clarity of their understanding that co-operation is an essential factor in building peace … reflecting the co-operative values of equality and equity,” he writes.

“And solidarity is a prerequisite of the co-operative commonwealth they aspired to.”

  • Concern for community: The relevance of co-operatives to peace will be available shortly from multiple co-operative websites
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