Why did co-operative movements become popular?

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  • Created by: becky.65
  • Created on: 02-04-18 16:01

With the onset of industrialisation, an alternative model of protection emerged which built on the idea of mutal support for mutual benefit

After the general withdrawal of government intervention in the economy from the 17th century, such support became more common as people felt they could rely only upon themselves

1799 - New Lanark mill began being operated by Robert Owen

Owen was a commited social reformer who believed in the power of education and the importance of providing welfare to employees

It was essential to Owen that workers were well looked after and that they were given the opportunity to improve themselves

He built upon the humane practices of the previous mill owner to create a 'perfect' workplace

The principle on which Owen worked was that people's characters were created by the environment - to promote better human beings it was necessary to improve the environment 

Owen proposed to do this through building new communities that took care of one another and which promoted a co-operative environment 

He replaced punishments to raise productivity with incentives to work:

  • used 'silent monitors' - a wooden block that hung above every worker's station and publicly identified the quality of their efforts with a differet coloured side
  • black for poor behaviour; blue for indifferent; yellow for good; white for excellent 
  • these were turned daily by supervisors to reflect the standard of behaviour 
  • encouraged better performance from employees by appealing to their sense of social standing among their fellow workers rather than accentuating a master/worker division 

New Lanark provided improved living and working conditions for employees:

  • after 1800 the working day was shortened to no more than 12 hours with a one and a half hour meal break
  • minimum age to work was 10
  • a shop was established which sold quality goods at little more than cost price and the profit that was generated went back to the workers in the form of 'free' education 
  • 1806 - USA placed an embargo on cotton supplies to Britain; Owen continued to pay his workers even though the mill was closed for four months
  • Owen was pioneering a new society model

1816 - the future Tsar of Russia, Nicholas, visited the mills

New Lanark had a significant impact upon those in Britian:

  • other progressive individuals sought to create similar schemes
  • 1815 - the declining economy meant these efforts enjoyed a reasonable degree of popularity 
  • 1821 - Hetherington formed a Co-operative and Economical Society in London with the intention of establishing a communal house in Spa Fields
  • 1827/9 - KIng published a newspaper called 'The Co-operator' which was able to circulate the ideas of co-operation and link disparate groups together 

1829 - Owen's spirit of communalism manifested itself in the form of co-operative stores across the country

These stores embodied the co-operative spirit by sharing their profits with their customers

1832 - 500 co-operative stores existed 

The motive for this success lay with the empowerment of the people themselves - the idea of co-operation offered a real alternative…

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