Boundaries, Structures and Strategies
Edited by Andrea Colli and Michelangelo Vasta
* Patrizia Battilani and Vera Zamagni INTRODUCTION The history of the Italian co-operative movement differs in certain important respects from that of other countries. First and foremost, it was never organised as a neutral, apolitical, non-religious movement as would have been the case had it conformed to the recommendations of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), which has always fought to keep co-operative organisations ideologically neutral in order to avoid any discrimination against the movement. The deep-rooted propensity towards co-operation that has characterised substantial sections of the Italian population has led not only to a plurality of inspirational ideals in the co-operative movement, but also to the formation of separate umbrella organisations (Fornasari & Zamagni, 1997). The first co-operatives to emerge, during the second half of the 19th century, were a spin-off of the Friendly Societies. These early cooperatives were mainly of a liberal character and were strongly influenced by the ideals of Giuseppe Mazzini. A second group of co-operatives materialised with the advent of Italian socialism (and later communism), while a third group emerged from the social commitment of the Catholic church, as symbolised and promoted by Pope Leo XIII in his famous encyclical on the condition of the working classes, Rerum Novarum, published in 1891.1 The variegated nature of the co-operative movement in Italy has undoubtedly been one of the factors that has guaranteed its survival to this day, uninterrupted even under Fascism, thanks also to the support the co-operative movement received from the various different governments and local administrations.2 This...
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