Dusk Somewhere

What do cooperatives do and what are they for?

Posted at — Feb 14, 2024 by Izzy Meckler

Capitalist firms are a somewhat stable forms of organization under capitalism. The average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 was about 20 years (as of 2020). For small businesses, it is harder to find information, but one source gives an average lifespan of 8.5 years1.

Cooperatives are even more stable:

For example, statistics from France showed a particularly high survival rate of conversions of conventional companies into worker cooperatives: there was a three-year survival rate of 80-90% for these cooperatives, converted from “in crisis” or “sound” enterprises, respectively. Compare this to a 66% three-year survival rate for all French enterprises. Likewise, the five-year survival rate of cooperatives formed from existing businesses was 61-82%; this figure for all French businesses was 50%.2

See the above reference for more evidence and theories on the increased resilience of cooperatives.

So cooperatives are a form of worker self-organization that lasts for a decently long time. They also have some more specific positive properties:

They have negative properties as well. Namely, they have some tendency (less than a conventional capitalist firm) to reproduce the negative external effects of capitalist organization, because they are subject to market pressures. I think this is overstated, as it only really becomes relevant at a scale much larger than what most businesses will achieve.

  1. https://www.thezebra.com/resources/research/small-business-statistics/ ↩︎

  2. https://www.co-oplaw.org/knowledge-base/worker-cooperatives-performance-and-success-factors ↩︎