La contribución de los fundadores del cooperativismo de Mondragón al pensamiento cooperativo

  1. Ortega Sunsundegi, Igor
Supervised by:
  1. Leire Uriarte Zabala Director
  2. Fred Freundlich Director

Defence university: Mondragon Unibertsitatea

Fecha de defensa: 22 July 2021

  1. Aitor Bengoetxea Alkorta Chair
  2. Saioa Arando Lasagabaster Secretary
  3. Enekoitz Etxezarreta Etxarri Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 684953 DIALNET


This doctoral thesis analyzes the contribution to cooperative thought made by the founders of the Mondragon cooperatives. Our analysis is based on the notion that cooperative doctrine does not consist merely of a specific conception of the business enterprise, but rather that it entails a full system of values, one that includes a particular conception of human nature and of social organization and the good society. Our research objectives require that we explain the relationship between the idea of the cooperative enterprise developed by the founders of Mondragon and the evolution of the broader cooperative movement and its principal debates, out of which the foundations of cooperative doctrine were established. The analysis is carried out in two main steps, the first, theoretical, and the second, empirical. In the theory portion of the thesis, we observe how the cooperative model has its roots in the associative movements that grew out of the aspirations of sectors of the working class, as well as in the practical and ideological formulations of associative socialists in a context in which industrial capitalism was bursting onto the scene in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The foundations for the growth and development of the model are laid down by the mid-to-late nineteenth century mainly through the experience of the Rochdale Pioneers in the United Kingdom and Raiffeisen and Schulze-Delitzsch credit cooperative models in Germany. This is the period when the basic organizational rules, regulations, principles and standards of the cooperative model are firmly enough established to make it viable and to permit its expansion. The Rochadale experience gains special relevance in the movement’s trajectory. The growing interest in the Rochdale by-laws and overall model lays the groundwork for the theoretical and ideological debates that, in time, give rise the Cooperative Principles and to cooperative doctrine more generally. The development of the cooperative movement, based as it was on the Rochdale model, is characterized by the predominance of consumer cooperativism and the ideology of consumer hegemony associated with it. By contrast, the producer or worker cooperatives that emerge are weak and are subjected to serious questioning by consumer cooperativists both for their limited reach as regards social transformation as well as their general lack of business success. This is the context of the international cooperative movement in the period during which the Mondragon cooperatives begin to take their first steps. In the empirical portion of the thesis, we analyze the conception of cooperative enterprise cultivated by the founders of Mondragon. In order to determine their contribution to cooperative thought, we use as a frame of reference, the central weaknesses of worker cooperatives identified by the adherents to the principle of consumer hegemony. Our analysis consists of, first, delving deeply into explanations for the Mondragon founders’ choice of the worker cooperative form in a European cooperative context dominated by consumer cooperativism and the ideology of consumer hegemony. Next, it addresses the critique related to worker cooperatives’ alleged exclusivity and limited transformational potential. The analysis then finishes by examining the policies and practices created by the Mondragon founders to ensure the viability of worker cooperatives as businesses. Overall, the analysis allows us to conclude that the founders of Mondragón make a serious contribution to cooperative thought, first, by constructing the theoretical and conceptual foundations that have supported the successful development of worker cooperatives and, second, by making significant, original contributions to the corpus of cooperative ideology and doctrine. The document finishes with an explanation of the study’s limitations and its implications for future research.