Co-operatives, territories and social capital: reconsidering a theoretical framework
Purpose – This paper promotes a critical approach to co-operative studies by contributing new theoretical insights. The aim is to propose a new view on the co-operative firm as a socioeconomic phenomenon embedded into the local contexts in which it is situated. Sociological and economic analyses have mainly explored the relationship between co-operative members and the organization, the economic performance of co-operatives or compared co-operatives with other firm types. Less attention has been given to the co-operative–territory relation, which can reveal insights into members’ collective actions, a co-operative’s origins from specific social groups or how they establish relationships with certain community stakeholders over others.
Findings – Reconsidering the role of social capital theory for co-operative studies, this article unfolds a dual reflection. First, it underlines the necessity for research that more closely considers co-operatives’ territorial relationships. Second, it critically interrogates and pushes forward social capital theory as a framework for examining the social relations that embed co-operatives and their capacity to activate territorial economies.