Institutional Choices Under Globalisation
Edited by Silvia Sacchetti and Roger Sugden
Chapter 8: Creativity and Institution Building: The Case of Italian Social Cooperatives
Alberto Ianes and Ermanno Tortia INTRODUCTION 1. The dismal science of economics and its tools – institutions, the market, contracts, and the enterprise in its multiple forms, can benefit from creative capacity when cooperative firms are considered. More than a century of history has seen creativity give rise to new cooperative institutions in Italy furnishing original solutions to emerging needs. In this way, the cooperative enterprise has been ahead of its times and anticipated both the market and the law, which has often ratified ex post a phenomenon already fully-fledged. One of the most recent examples of this creativity has been the social cooperative, a type of organization developed in the 1970s to innovate social policy in Italy. It shifted the debate to hypotheses hitherto considered fanciful – or one might say ‘creative’. The idea was to combine in the same organization, solidarist aims (i.e. concerned with the collective interest) and entrepreneurial activity, with business risk – besides managerial power – being voluntarily and directly assumed by workers, volunteers, and the users of services. In this regard, whilst ‘economic theory’ has only just begun to reflect on forms of enterprise not managed in the exclusive interest of the ownership, business history has entirely failed to address an entrepreneurial model with these distinctive characteristics. Yet we believe that only the joint use of different but contiguous disciplines,1 history and economic theory, can yield interpretation of a phenomenon, that of the social enterprise, whose sustainability and reproducibility is difficult to construe using standard tools. It...
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