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?



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