Clarifying what Karl Marx thought of the role of cooperatives is useful, not to receive the “correct” answer to what that role will be, but to help think through what alternatives answers might be and how they might color today’s expectations of the cooperative movement. If one sees a non-capitalist or socialist organization of society as ultimately desirable, then how should we answer the following questions in the present day: (1) Are co-ops in production, worker-owned enterprises, desirable experimental improvements to the organization of production over standard capitalist practices, in the direction of immediate social welfare? (2) Are such co-ops in production also little islands of a different future, models of socialism within a capitalist society? (3) Are they beachheads of socialism, politically practical steps along the road to bringing forth such a possible alternative society? (4) Will they ultimately also be the foundations of such a society, if it develops? (5) All in all, what is their importance, their role, in daily struggles?
The language of globalization deserves some explicit attention. To begin with, the word globalization itself is a nonconcept in most uses: a simple catalogue of everything that seems differ- ent since, say, 1970, whether advances in information technology, widespread use of air freight, speculation in currencies, in- creased capital flows across borders, Disneyfication of culture, mass marketing, global warming, genetic engineering, multinational corporate power, new international division of labor, international mobility of labor, reduced power of nation-states, postmodernism, or post-Fordism