Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni
In this brief introduction to economics research on cooperatives, we first provide definitions and then some examples of the incidence of different types of cooperatives around the world. Concerning research, we note that the theoretical literature on cooperatives and particularly worker cooperatives has been comparatively well developed following the seminal contributions of Ward (1958) and Vanek (1970), although subsequent empirical work has shown that often theory was insufficiently informed by empirical regularities observed in actually existing worker cooperatives. For other types of cooperatives, there is no unifying theoretical framework, and most of these cooperatives have received attention in the literature far below what one might have expected based on their economic significance. However, much of this literature has been empirically and institutionally oriented. In the final section we discuss some recent themes in recent research and emphasize ways in which the availability of new datasets may contain significant promise for research on cooperatives.
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