Marszalek reviews Cooperatives Confront Capitalism by Peter Ranis, Platform Capitalism by Nick Srnicek, and Ours to Hack and to Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider.
In recent decades, various pundits, activists, and self-styled entrepreneurs have sought to shoehorn worker cooperatives into a mainstream narrative based on principles of ownership—of course, “democratic” ownership. Their intent is, in part, to extricate worker cooperatives from their flighty, idealistic associations with 1960s hippiedom—itself the legacy of that era’s mass media.
However, grassroots cooperatives first appeared in the United States much earlier, during the rise of the Knights of Labor in the latter part of nineteenth century. Hundreds of worker cooperatives were established, though for various reasons they proved unsustainable. The New Deal years saw another surge in cooperative development, largely sponsored by the federal government, mobilizing farmers’ cooperatives, which in turn spurred interest in cities, where retail, food, and housing cooperatives began to form. And then, of course, all sorts of collective and communal ventures proliferated in the 1960s.