Marxist Theory and Worker Cooperatives

Since discussing Marx and Marxist theory in class, I began to think about the means of production and worker cooperatives. Some worker cooperatives may operate different than the definition I will give here, but for those that are new to the concept of a worker cooperative, it is a business that is equally owned by all employees of that business, with each employee having one vote in deciding how the business operates. In short: democracy in the workplace.

Concerning Marxist theory, assuming that a worker cooperative might operate at the definition I gave, the issue of who owns and controls the means of production within the business is no longer an issue, because the workers as a whole own the means of production, assuming that there is a means of production. During Marx’s time, working conditions were terrible for the working-class, so the issue of who was benefiting from these working conditions was great: who is benefiting and who is being exploited in that system. Even within the modern capitalist economic system, there are still concerns over the ownership of the means of production. Worker cooperatives themselves may not have this issue, at least in theory.

Even if all businesses transitioned to democratic worker cooperatives, I think the ownership of the overall means of production might still be an issue to some. Some would like an overall democratic economy, where local communities decide as a whole how production is operated, fulfilled, and distributed, (which I will refer to here as a democratic economy). The idea of a worker cooperative in an industrial state is a revolutionary idea that might exist in both capitalist and democratic economies.

As a person who has by no means read all of Marx’s works, I wonder what he would have thought about modern worker cooperatives. Would that be the ideal outcome for him regarding the control of the means of production? Or would it not go far enough for him?



One thought on “Marxist Theory and Worker Cooperatives

  1. I think Marx would be satisfied by the modern worker cooperative movement but he would also see that there is still other factors which must be tackled. Democratically controlling the workplace is a way for the mass of workers to solve many issues economically — like inequality and working conditions. But what it doesn’t solve is government or politics — or the communities of cooperatives — they will have to be radically rethought. And if it is that the majority of worker cooperatives does employ a majority of the world’s population, will it be the cooperatives themselves or an organization of cooperatives who then help out the students, refugees, the sick, the disabled, the elderly?

    Great little post you have here! 🙂

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