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Industrial Co-operation:




IN the production of this book two worthy examples of co-operative procedure in the making of text books have been followed. The Manual for Co-operators, which for many years served as the foundation of co-operative class teaching, was the joint production of two of the most eminent enthusiasts for co-operative education — the late Edward Vansinart Neale, and the late Thomas Hughes. Their work as editors was watched over by a committee of the Co-operative Union, and the Manual was published by resolution of the Co-operative Congress held at Leeds in 1881. The second example followed is that of Working-men Co-operators, another text book prepared for the Co-operative Union by the joint labours of two members of the Central Board of the Union, Mr. A. H. D. Acland and Mr. B. Jones.

The present work is also the joint production of co-operative enthusiasts. It has been prepared by the Southern Co-operative Education Association, and accepted by the Co-operative Union as the text book for students engaged in the study of the History, Theory, and Practice of Co-operation. The main purpose of the writers of the book has been to gather together, and bring up to date, as comprehensive an account as possible of the Co-operative Movement in Great Britain and Ireland, using as their chief sources of information the works of accepted authorities, and presenting it in such manner as seemed best suited to the needs of the student. It will succeed, but not necessarily supersede, the text books of these former exponents of Co-operation.

Many pens have been at work upon its pages, as will be plainly evident to the reader who seeks to find in it any uniformity of style. Provided the facts related could be verified by reliable references, that the story told by each contributor fell into harmony with the main purpose and scope of the book, and that the principle of “equitable association” was made manifest from cover to cover, I, as Editor, have been content to regard the diversity of styles as lending interest to a work containing many technical details. To the general reader, who may happen to discover some apparently unnecessary repetitions of incident or fact, I would submit, that since the book is primarily intended for the use of students, each repetition will, on examination, be found to emphasise some special point, or drive home some particular lesson. In the revision of the work, over which considerable time and labour has been spent, every effort has been made to avoid any unnecessary elaboration of detail, and care has been taken to leave unmentioned no essential feature or phase of co-operative activity. At the same time, large fields of inquiry are left open for further research.

In addition to drawing information from the published writings of co-operators and records of co-operation, the authors desire to acknowledge their indebtedness to the courtesy of many co-operative officials who have supplied them with local or incidental items of information. In the preparation of the statistical data, and in many matters of historical fact, they have had the great advantage of guidance and advice from Mr. J. J. Dent, of the Labour Department of the Board of Trade; to him they desire to make special acknowledgement, as well as to Mr. Aneurin Williams, to whom they are indebted for the chapters on the Christian Socialists and Labour Co-partnership.

In one direction only do the writers claim for their work the distinction of novelty. This is in the method they have adopted of presenting to the student the diverse theories regarding the division of “the fund commonly known as profit,” which, broadly speaking, still divide co-operators into two schools of thought, although happily no longer into two contending parties.

Those who stand for the “Theory of Consumers’ Association,” which makes the consumer the unit of co-operative effort, and the recipient of its surplus “profits”; and those who stand for the “Theory of Co-partnership Association,” which gives the worker — as such — a special place in the responsibility of effort and a special share in its gains, will find within this book the foundations upon which each theory is built up. The writers have made no effort to reconcile the two theories, but they have endeavoured to show that they can and do exist, side by side in one great whole, and that the solidarity of the Co-operative Movement as a social force is complete, despite divergencies in theory and in practice.

The general reader, if he has wit, will determine for himself which of the two theories exhibits the signs of greater vitality. The student, if he has any spark of the co-operative faith in him, will find underlying both “the essential character of our movement,” which is “a unifying principle . . . consecrated to the common good of all, and exclusive of none.”


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