The purposes of this book are to clarify the socioeconomic status of cooperatives in the 21st century and to present new theoretical and empirical knowledge regarding roles of cooperatives in the context of world history by examining rules of cooperatives in constitutions and provisions of antitrust exemptions in various countries around the world.
In this time of confusion and great transformation, what are the status and roles of cooperatives? While the global top-priority issues have shifted in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, where have cooperatives stood? As the world celebrates 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, the author discusses the historic position of cooperatives in the 21st century by examining constitutions across the globe.
In constitutions across the globe, where do cooperatives stand? A constitution sets the fundamental directions of the country's political, economic, social and cultural future. It is also a basic law that rules other laws. Hence, a constitution not only reflects the country's dominant philosophy but also presents directions and visions which the country is to take.
Currently, the following 51 countries and 6 states in Germany have provisions on protection and/or promotion of cooperatives in their constitutions:
Italy, Brazil, Russia, India, China, Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Switzerland, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, East Timor, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait, Myanmar, Egypt, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and 6 states of Germany (Hessen, Bayern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Saarland and Nordrhein-Westfalen).
Provisions on protection and/or promotion of cooperatives can be found in pioneering constitutions in several countries, including Mexico (1917), Weimar Germany (1919), Spain (1931), Cuba (1940) and Peru (1920,1933).
The constitutions in these countries are not the 19th century early-modern constitutions that are centered around economic freedom such as freedom of business. Rather, they are the 20th century modern constitutions which stress social, labor and economic rights and set economic justice as the top-priority issue. Some of them are the 21st century constitutions that emphasize economic participation.
What is the top-priority issue of constitutions in the 21st century? It is to effectively achieve the economic freedom in the 19th century and economic justice in the 20th century through economic participation in the 21st century. The 21st century is the era of economic participation; therefore, it is also the era to show the full potential of cooperatives that embody participatory democracy.
From the 19th to 20th centuries, the socioeconomic top-priority issue had shifted from economic freedom to economic justice. And it has further shifted to economic participation in the 21st century. Economic justice emerged to overcome the negative effects of economic freedom, and economic participation emerged in order to address the limitations of economic justice. Nevertheless, economic justice is not in conflict with economic freedom. Likewise, economic participation does not take the place of economic justice. Economic participation is there to effectively achieve economic freedom and economic justice.
Therefore, with economic participation as the core, the multitiered system of economic freedom, justice and participation need to be pursued simultaneously in the 21st century. Since cooperatives embody participatory democracy, they can be considered as leaders in pursuing economic freedom, economic justice and economic participation.
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