The meaning – the ultimate sense – of the road we have travelled lies in one key question. Namely, what can we do to enable the market to serve – as it did, at least in part, at its dawning in the fifteenth century – to strengthen social bonds by fostering an economic space where those who wish can practise, and thus regenerate, the very values without which the market could not offer its best side, or even truly exist – mutual trust, reciprocity, equity, democracy? Seeking the answer to this question, one unavoidably recognizes the importance, within our advanced economies, of the cooperative form of enterprise, not an antagonist but an alternative to the capitalist corporation. That is, one must acknowledge the need to maintain a living space within and not outside the market, occupied by people and institutions whose economic action is inspired by the mutual philosophy. Because participation in that space cannot be detached from the associative link that motivates it, mutual cooperation forms part of the behavioural principle of reciprocity. Reciprocity, however, must not be mistaken for the exchange of equivalents, which is actually the cornerstone of capitalistic conduct. The essential aspect of reciprocity in a relationship is that the transfer is not dissociable from the underlying human relations. That is, the object of the transaction cannot be separated from the personal identity of those who carry it out. So under reciprocity exchange ceases to be anonymous and impersonal. This is why we have stressed, repeatedly, that mutual exchange – that is,...
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