Facing the Challenge of Globalization
5. The cooperative movement in Italy The Italian cooperative movement is not so well known abroad for a number of reasons, among which is the lack of effort to represent it in the English language, but it deserves attention for its long history and its capability to grow strongly in recent times, finding new paths. This is why we devote an entire chapter to its history. 5.1 THE ORIGINS The origins of the cooperative movement in Italy date back to the first consumer co-op in Turin, founded in 1854, even though as in other countries there had been short-lived experiences earlier. In this case, as in most of the subsequent ones, the cultural and associative soil that delivered the first cooperatives consisted of the workers’ mutual aid societies,1 which began to be formed all over Europe in the later eighteenth century. These were the descendants of the old confraternities created by the guilds, which had been abolished by then. They took on a new form, maintaining their spirit of solidarity but organizing on a territorial rather than vocational basis and accompanying their traditional social insurance activities with new cultural and economic initiatives (Fornasari and Zamagni, 1997). The mutual aid societies had a large membership base consisting of people of modest economic means but not destitute. Since these members could contribute their small savings to raise the initial capital, the societies were especially suitable for the creation of consumer, worker, credit and housing co-ops. And so the Italian cooperative movement...
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