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The Democracy Principle

thedemocracyprincipleThe Democract Principle - Farmer Co-operatives in Twentieth Century Australia by Gary Lewis is now available online.  It is an important study as Australia has very few co-operative histories yet alone a co-operative historian who has published a series of co-operative histories. A key theme throughout the book is the devastating consequence for co-operatives of a common failure to commit to an ongoing co-operative education program.

In the Foreword the Director General of the International Co-operative Alliance, Iain Macdonald, laments that Australia's co-operatives seem "to have been overcome by the empty promises of demutualisation which offers nothing except bigger salaries for the CEOs."  Macdonald hopes that the book "will help encourage Australia back towards its natural home - an ethically sound and commercially successful co-operative economy." 

Lewis argues that there are various reasons for the establishment and development of co-operatives but that the democracy principle is the co-operative difference. He argues that the democracy principle is the idea held by Australian farmers that it is possible in a capitalist society to democratically own and control a business on a one-member-one vote basis.

There are a number of recurring themes throughout The Democracy Principle:

  • Divisiiveness between and within co-operative sectors.
  • Continuing inability and unwillingness to work together on common objectives.
  • The long-term absence of nationally uniform or federal co-operatives' legislation.
  • The absence of a federal farmer co-operatives extension service.
  • The absence of a co-operative bank.
  • An intermittent national co-operative voice e.g. Co-operative Federation of Australia and the Australian Association of Co-operatives.
  • A failure to invest in co-operative education and, therefore, maintain a co-operative consciousness.
  • The suppression of the democracy principle.
  • The roles of managers and boards in either protecting or undermining the democracy principle.
 

The Democracy Principle: Farmer Co-operatives in Twentieth Century Australiam Gary Lewis, 2006
Paperback, 440 pages ISBN 0 -646-46587-2
Cost: Postage only
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